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Study on link between obesity and inactivity

8th July 2010

Researchers have suggested that programmes to tackle obesity need to focus more on food than exercise.

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In a paper published in the Archives of childhood Disease, the research have challenged the assumption that a lack of exercise causes children to put on weight following an 11-year study of more than 200 children in Plymouth.

The researchers at the EarlyBird Diabetes Study, based at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth say it is getting fatter which makes children inactive.

Lead author Professor Terry Wilkin said: “Moderate and physical activity only occupies in boys a little less than an hour a day and in girls about 45 minutes.

"So it's a not insubstantial amount of activity that is gained by having the lower body mass. And that of course is energy expenditure day in day out, week in week out, month in month out so the balance is changed substantially."

The paper suggests that overweight children may perceive their body image negatively, and as a result choose not to join in sports and exercise. It also argues that children who put on too much weight may suffer discomfort and pain during exercise more quickly.

Dr David Haslam from the National Obesity Forum says the wider health benefits of exercise for children must not be overlooked but what clinicians should not do is take the paper at face value and allow lean children to be as lazy as they please.

The Department of Health in England said the EarlyBird study provided useful messages which it would consider alongside other research.

 

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