Differences in Socio-Demographic, Cognitive, and Behavioral Factors of Obese Versus Non-Obese Sedentary Girls

Wednesday, July 13, 2011: 1:45 PM

Melodee L. Vanden Bosch, MSN, RN1
Lorraine B. Robbins, PhD, RN, FNP-BC1
Yun-Jia Lo, MS2
Kimberly S. Maier, PhD2
Karin A. Pfeiffer, PhD3
(1)College of Nursing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
(2)Department of Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
(3)Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Learning Objective 1: 1) Examine socio-demographic, cognitive and behavioral differences between obese versus non-obese girls.

Learning Objective 2: 2) Discuss implications of findings for recruitment and intervention strategies with overweight and obese girls.

Purpose: Despite high prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescent girls, contributing factors remain unclear. The study purpose was to identify any differences in socio-demographic, behavioral, and cognitive factors between obese and non-obese 10- to 13-year-old girls. 

Methods: Baseline data from a longitudinal physical activity (PA) intervention study were analyzed. Girls were included in the study if they reported on a screening tool a lack of current involvement in organized sports or PA programs 3 or more days weekly. The convenience sample, 86 racially diverse 5th- through 7th- grade girls, was recruited from 11 elementary and 2 middle schools in one urban school district.

Results: Descriptive findings indicated that 37.2% of the girls were obese (n=32). Compared to non-obese girls, obese girls had lower cardiovascular fitness (t (78) = 4.19, p<.001, d = -0.95), fewer minutes of objectively-measured moderate to vigorous PA (t (67) = 2.68, p=.009, d = -0.66) and fewer hours of weekday computer use (t (70) = 2.08, p=.041, d = -0.50). No differences between obese versus non-obese girls were noted for race; free or reduced lunch program participation; intake of fruits, vegetables, sweetened or diet beverages, milk, or fried fast food; breakfast consumption; or other sedentary behaviors. While no cognitive differences occurred between obese and non-obese, 72.1% of the girls (n=62) indicated that being an exerciser or physically active person was very important to them at this time in their lives, yet they lacked adequate PA participation.

Conclusion: The study showed that recruiting girls who are not involved in organized sports or PA programs can result in a sample in which many are obese and in need of intervention, while avoiding stigmatization related to focusing only on the overweight and obese. Knowledge of factors related to obesity is important for targeting interventions to help girls achieve or maintain healthy weight.