Defying the logic of correlation between healthy eating and physical activeness, researchers have proved that there is no connection between the two in case of older adults. The study was conducted on adolescents in 10-12 grades.
Dr. Catherine Sabiston, assistant professor in McGill’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, and P.R.E. Crocker, of the University of British Columbia (UBC), still a student of Ph.D., conducted the research in Vancouver. It was carried out to make an all-encompassing report on healthy eating habits and physical activity in the children belonging to the age group of 15-18 years. The study has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
“First of all, older adolescents are an unrepresented sample in research studies,” Sabiston said. “Researchers have generally looked at youths or at university populations and have completely missed this unique, intermediate age group.”
Sabiston also discovered that the teen’s body mass index (BMI) does not interfere with the physical activity. The activeness remains the same in healthy eaters as well as unhealthy eaters irrespective of their BMI. “A lot of people are surprised, but when you think about it, BMI doesn’t have a huge impact on physical activity. And in terms of diet, it actually makes sense that someone who is not happy with their body might try to eat more healthily,” said Sabiston.
In the study, boys have been reported to eat a less healthy diet than girls but participated more in activities. So it also implies that contradictory to the facts, healthy eaters having a healthy BMI need not necessarily be more active than ‘unhealthy’ eaters. It also mentions that to start a healthy eating habit, boys need to attach a value to it and believe that they can follow it. Whereas girls just have to start believing that the diet is important for them which makes them eat well regardless of their own opinion on their ability to follow it.
Sabiston, who is also director of McGill’s Health Behaviour and Emotion Lab, notes that while there is still a weak link between healthy eating and physical activity, there is just no connection between BMI and how active the teen is. “This study drives home the point that as a society, we’re primarily focused on extrinsic things like appearance and weight versus the betterment of health,” Sabiston said. Adding, “From a public health perspective, this means we should probably focus on people who are at a healthy weight or even underweight, and emphasize that healthy eating is not just about weight-change.”
Ultimately what forms the crux of the report is that – neither is a healthy eater necessarily physically more active and vice-versa; nor does a junk-food eater have high BMI and a sedentary lifestyle.