Black Girls and Obesity: More Research

A new study links unhealthy weight among black women to lack of physical activity during the teen years. 

Alexandria Johnson practices soccer. (NPR)

Experts say there are a lot of reasons that teen girls tend to drop exercise from their lives: Their interests change, their friends change and they have competing interests, including academics, work and caring for younger siblings or other family members.

But according to new research reported by NPR today, this problem -- and it is a problem, because lack of physical activity is connected to obesity -- is especially acute among African-American teens.

A National Institutes of Health study that followed girls for 10 years, beginning at age 8 or 9, found that, over time, their leisure-time physical activity declined dramatically. That drop-off was steepest for African-American girls. By age 17, half of black girls -- compared with a third of white girls -- reported that they did no physical activity in their leisure time.

This could be the origin of a familiar troubling statistic: About half of African-American women in the U.S. are obese, compared with 30 percent of white women. Black women not only carry more weight but also start piling on extra pounds years before their white counterparts.

Issues related to health, weight and race have many more layers than this, but the research does suggest that parents might want to think twice and consider long-term consequences before letting their middle-school daughters quit the soccer team.

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