NICOYA – The need to promote healthy lifestyles and to improve the quality of life of the region’s citizens, along with the high rate of cardiovascular disease and malignant tumors that exists among the residents of Guanacaste, led a group of researchers from the Escuela de Ciencias del Deporte (School of Sports Sciences) of the Universidad Nacional (UNA) to conduct a research, during 2009, in the student population of Nicoya.
After surveying a total of 653 students, their findings show that a sedentary lifestyle has become the prevailing condition among children and teenagers of the area. Their results were presented during the II Congreso Internacional de Actividad Física, Salud y Calidad de Vida “Ejercicio es Medicina™” in which, according to Dr. Pedro Ureña, Head of the Unidad de Investigación (Research Department) and Professor of the Escuela de Ciencias del Deporte of the UNA, children and teenagers, especially girls, spend most of their time watching TV, leaving aside physical and recreational activities. Elementary and high school students of the area also spend most of their time using the computer, doing school-related tasks, such as homework, and in social activities with friends and family, without these necessarily involving some type of physical activity.
The investigation also assessed the student’s anthropometric (or body) measurements and, although most of them (58.6%) have a body weight within the normal range, according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) (read more in “Know Your Labs”), 27.5% where found to be underweight (with a BMI below 18), a fact that should alarm us in regards to the quality of the nutrition they are receiving. Finally, among the variables that were evaluated in regards to their quality of life, students placed their physical well-being and their school’s environment as the areas of greatest dissatisfaction, while their emotional well-being and their relationships with family and friends were ranked as the areas they are most satisfied with.
These results are extremely important for both the school principals and teachers of the region, as well as for the country’s Education and Health authorities. Based on the investigation’s findings, the dissatisfaction expressed by the students in regards to their school’s environment should be carefully assessed in order to determine if it is caused by the conditions of the area’s elementary and high schools, specifically due to deficiencies in their infrastructure, in the sanitary conditions or due to a lack of educational resources (such as computers, Internet access, books, etc.), or is it being caused by a bad relationship with their fellow classmates and/or teachers or by the lack of encouragement and interest, on behalf of the students, towards learning and their schoolwork. This assessment is very important in order to implement the necessary corrective measures.
Know Your Labs
Which test, when, who and what for?
Test: Body Mass Index (BMI)
What is it and what is it for?
It is a number, or index, that is calculated based on a person’s weight and height, allowing us to screen and assess if weight problems, such as overweight and obesity, exist. However, it does not include other important aspects such as the body type (athletic, lean, etc.), the body circumference (waist, hips, etc.), the body fat percentage or its distribution throughout the body.
How is BMI calculated?
In adults, its calculation is based on the following formula:
Body Mass or Weight (kg) /
What does it mean?
BMI Weight Category
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.0 Overweight
30.0 – 39.0 Obese
40.0 and above Morbid Obesity
What else should you keep in mind?
For children and teenagers, BMI-for-age growth charts are used instead of the aforementioned formula since for them, the interpretation of BMI should be age- and sex-specific. In addition, the BMI values in the elderly vary slightly, considering BMI values between 25–27 as acceptable for this age group.