Global Education Forum: Tackling childhood obesity requires positive future-focus

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Obesity Initiative at UGA

This is post 3 of 5 regarding the 75th Annual Global Education Forum at the University of Georgia on April 2, 2013. Check the adjacent posts for more coverage.

This year’s forum theme was Obesity, Food Security, and Nutrition in Global Context.

During the afternoon, undergraduate and graduate students presented posters about their research. I was particularly struck by a kinesiology doctoral student’s poster about using positive thinking and associations to encourage physical activity in children in the future.

Brian Yim, a student interested in sports consumption and sports fan behavior in particular, is known around the department as the “emotion guy.” He likes to include the psychological aspects into his kinesiology research.

For this poster, Yim suggested focusing on “positive anticipatory” behavior, which is when a person thinks about the future event and feels the emotion now, and “positive anticipated” behavior, which is when a person feels the emotion after the event. By pairing these, Yim explains that positive-thinking exercises, such as a writing task, could encourage students to be motivated about exercise and help them to look forward to it in the future.

Yim acknowledged some of the environmental factors that may get into the way, such as higher barriers to access for students with lower socioeconomic status, but he hopes to test his theory with various groups in the future.

“I think we can — and will — motivate them,” he said.