In particular, children and teens who currently have higher obesity rates would require larger energy gap reductions [more dietary restriction and more exercise] to reach the obesity rate goal. For instance, based on their current obesity rates, white youths would need a 46-calorie reduction, on average, in their energy gap to reach the goals. But given their higher obesity rates in 2008-2010, the average reduction needed to close the energy gap for Mexican-American youths is 91 calories and, for black youths, it is 138 calories. Youths in lower-income communities also need greater reductions than their peers in higher-income areas, again due to higher rates of obesity. Additionally, an earlier study by several of the same researchers found that the problem is especially acute for teens who are already overweight.
The solutions are the same: it take time more than money, to make lifestyle changes.
The authors outline several policy strategies that could help to close the daily energy gap for American youths. For instance, they point to research showing that:
- replacing all sugar-sweetened beverages in school with water and not consuming any additional sugary beverages outside of school could reduce the energy gap by 12 calories per day;
- participating in a comprehensive physical education program could eliminate 19 calories per day among children ages 9-11; and
- engaging in an after-school activity program for children in grades K-5 results in an additional 25 calories expended per day.