Horry County middle school tackles obesity in young girls

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A new study is linking obesity in overweight girls to early puberty, and one Horry County School is trying to stop the trend.

The Physical Education and Health teachers at Ocean Bay Middle School have made it their mission this school year to promote good nutrition and fitness. They say they've seen the findings of a recent Journal of Pediatrics study linking obesity and early puberty in girls to be true.

PE teacher Abigail Whittaker has taught for 11 years, and she said she's noticed the younger girls developing more quickly in recent years.

"It's amazing the changes we see in them," she said. "We have sixth through eight grade all three years, and see the same girls - it's a giant change."

Whittaker, along with fellow PE teacher Pam Fischer, have been working to address lifestyle changes after noticing this trend on their own.

According to the study, puberty is developing in girls before their tenth birthday; that's two years earlier than past decades.

Ocean Bay Middle School has instituted a walking and running program for their students, along with stressing the importance of making healthy long lasting choices, but teachers can't do it all alone.

"Turn off the TV, sit down at the table eat, and talk with your student, and just move," urged Fischer, who's been teaching for more than 20 years.

On Wednesday at Ocean Bay, they started a 15-day challenge through Subway. It promotes healthier eating by tracking how many fruits and vegetables students eat, how much water they drink, and how much physical activity they get daily.

In the study, girls who enter puberty early have an increased risk for depression, low self-esteem, and early sexual activity.

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