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Program Gets Teens Off the Couch

Doctor-guided initiative increased exercise rates and improved diet

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A combo of computers, doctors and telephone reminders can help teens improve their eating habits and exercise more, a new study finds.

The one-year study was conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and included 819 adolescents, aged 11 to 15. About half were assigned to take part in "Patient-Centered Assessment and Counseling for Exercise + Nutrition" (PACE+), while the others were put in a control group that received no special attention.

The program began with a computer screening and goal-setting tool completed in a primary-care doctor's office. After a three- to five-minute counseling session with the doctor, the adolescent and his or her parents are given educational materials to take home. Follow-up included a year of personalized mailings and brief phone calls from trained research staff.

After one year, the adolescents in the PACE+ group had reduced their "couch potato" behavior by an average of one hour per day, while those in the control group showed no change.

Boys in the PACE+ group increased their number of active days per week and were more likely to meet the recommended level of one-hour-per-day of daily exercise. Girls in the PACE+ group were more likely than girls in the control group to meet the U.S. federal government's guidelines for maximum percentage of daily calories from saturated fat.

The study appears in the February issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers a teen's guide to better health.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Feb. 6, 2006
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