Concentrating on Homework

Mom, Homework Is Making Me Fat

A new study published in Obesity begs the question: does homework contribute to childhood obesity?

In a cross-sectional cohort study, Isabelle Michaud and colleagues found significantly more symptoms of obesity in boys with a higher workload of homework combined with stress related to school. The authors comment that:

Current findings are in line with previous studies conducted in adults where exposure to mental stress at work was linked to body weight gain and in children who have higher energy intake on examination days.

It’s important to note that cause and effect cannot be determined from a cross sectional study such as this. The authors note, in fact, that visceral adiposity could be responsible for stress and difficulty with homework. So obesity could be the cause of these boys spending more time doing their homework. The nature of this study makes it impossible to know one way or the other.

But what is becoming increasingly clear is that educators are rethinking the role of homework in education. In a paper published last year in the Journal of Experimental Education, Galloway et al found that “students who did more hours of homework experienced greater behavioral engagement in school but also more academic stress, physical health problems, and lack of balance in their lives.” They concluded, “our current homework practices seem to be serving few students well.”

So while we can’t say excessive homework is behind the rise in childhood obesity, we have plenty of reasons to ask questions about how much homework is healthy for our kids.

Click here to read the study in Obesity, here to read the study in the Journal of Experimental Education, and here to read more on the subject from CNN.

Concentrating on Homework, photograph © Sharyn Morrow / flickr

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