More girls than boys struggle with being overweight. ZAMORANO conducted a survey among teenage students from a local village that showed the need for physical activity and healthier eating habits. ZAMORANO, with the financial help of the Institute for Technology in Health Care (ITHC), began to tackle this problem by promoting an active and healthy lifestyle among the San Antonio de Oriente School students.
Sedentarism among girls –and women in general- is a cultural trait to be overcome. Boys are culturally more likely to perform longer time intervals of physical activity during the day (either because they are expected to assist with the family farming activities or because it is “safer” for them to be outside playing) than girls, who during their free times might just sit and talk among themselves while boys enthusiastically pick up a ball to play with friends.
Even though girls are the most affected by weight gain, nutritional problems pervade in all segments of the village population –the younger and older generations alike.
The goal was to spark in the San Antonio de Oriente students an interest in sports by organizing fun outdoor games and teaching them how to identify healthy food options.
Collecting anthropometric measurements was the first step to gather all the nutritional information from the students. At the end of the three-month program, all those who showed any health improvement were rewarded. Sweat pants and workout shirts were fun prices the participants enjoyed. The school also received sports equipment the students could use during their Physical Education class.
“It wasn’t until the program started that I became motivated to play sports. We played volleyball, soccer and other fun traditional games. And Dr. Hernández-Santana created a facebook group to share with us advice on what to eat and what not to eat,” commented Alexa Moncada, a 15 year-old student recognized for her outstanding effort to improve her health during the program.
“At first, I thought the program would be hard, because changing eating habits is not easy. Our students’ families already have an established eating style. Fortunately, in this program we were told that changes happen gradually. I hope we continue to put into practice what we learned,” shared Ms. Sandra Henríquez, vice principle of San Antonio de Oriente School.
Choosing an active lifestyle and sports over sedentarism is only one factor to attain a healthy life. A healthy eating culture is still in the making process to get us off to a much needed start on living happier and healthier lives.