The Impact of Aerobic Exercises in Reducing Obesity Among African-American Adolescents

Sharon Jackson; Gladys Kimeli; Susan Eley


Pediatr Nurs. 2019;45(2):71-74. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The prevalence of obesity is common among African-American adolescents compared to other races. Obesity has a lingering health effect on this population, and leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Evidence suggests the use of structured moderate to vigorous aerobic exercises for a specific duration reduces total body fat in obese African-American adolescents. Given the evidence, implementation of aerobic exercises can reduce total body fat in obese adolescents, resulting in improved health and decrease comorbidities associated with obesity. Parental involvement and safe neighborhoods should also be considered when promoting aerobic exercises among the African American population.


Obesity is a serious health issue worldwide. Since 1970, the prevalence of obesity among young children and adolescents has tripled (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2018b). In the United States, obesity among racial groups, particularly communities of color, is on the rise compared to counterparts. According to the CDC (2018a), the prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic Blacks is 22.0% compared to 14.1% among non-Hispanic Whites. Current data show that African-American adolescents have second highest rates of obesity (20%), especially those from low socioeconomic status, compared to 14.1% of White adolescents (Tate, Dillaway, Yarandi, Jones, & Wilson, 2015). Tomayko, Flood, Tandias, and Hanrahan (2015) further concluded there is nearly a 12% rate of childhood obesity associated with lower socioeconomic status. Despite the attention from governmental officials, private sectors, and the media on this emerging obesity crisis, rates are still on the rise.

Adolescent obesity is significant because it contributes to increasing morbidity and risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and fatty liver disease. Additionally, the effect of obesity on adolescents leads to psychosocial problems, such as poor school performance, poor self-image, social isolation, and depression (Pulgarón, 2013). Obesity does not vanish as adolescent youths become adults, thus becoming a burden to society. The estimated cost of obesity-related health problems is staggering, at around $190 billion dollars, with $14 billion in childhood obesity healthcare costs (Cawley & Mejerhoefer, 2012). Without any significant changes in adolescent obesity, the result will lead to negative consequences, including economic burden and public health disparities.

Although numerous programs are available to tackle obesity, including school- and family-based interventions aimed at improving lifestyles habits, obesity continues to rise among African-American adolescents (Stea et al., 2016). New exercise guidelines suggest that children ages 6 through 17 years should get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise or activity a day, with great emphasis on aerobic exercises, such as swimming, running, or biking. Additionally, exercise activity should include muscle- and bone-strengthening activities, such as climbing activities and playing sports (Piercy et al., 2018).

The purpose of this literature review is to provide evidence of the effectiveness of aerobic exercise programs on reducing obesity among African-American adolescents. It is anticipated that identification of high-level research in support of aerobic exercise for African-American adolescents will aid in reducing obesity rates and provide additional tools that can be used in primary care or schools.