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Link between inactivity and childhood obesity questioned

The idea that fatness in children is caused by a lack of exercise has been disputed by scientists.

The study found that rather than being its cause, a lack of exercise may be prompted by weight gain in children. The team found that the best way to fight obesity in youth is through nutrition, rather than exercise.

The three-year study looked at more than 200 children across Plymouth with the EarlyBird team regularly assessing their fitness and fat levels.

They found that body fat levels had an effect on physical activity, but that varying activity did not lead to any changes in fatness.

The paper, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggests that overweight children may think about their body negatively, shying away from sports and exercise as a result.

It concluded: "Physical inactivity appears to be the result of fatness rather than its cause. This reverse causality may explain why attempts to tackle childhood obesity by promoting physical activity have been largely unsuccessful."

Dr David Haslam, from the National Obesity Forum, cautioned that the wider health benefits of exercise for children must not be overlooked.

He told the BBC: "The EarlyBird team really force us to question our comfortable assumptions regarding childhood obesity.

"What we shouldn't do is take the paper at face value and allow lean children to be as lazy as they please, as that would be a catastrophic mistake."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Archives of Disease in Childhood

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I totally agree, have recently passed the OU obesity model, and looking at the links even going back to bottle-fed children, and 1977 where McDonalds and then few years later the Playstation arrived; all of this has been a factor in obesity. We have to look to the future and the government to help fund my activities and after school activities for children. The taking away of funding for free swimming is disgraceful" - Lorraine Shenton

"More controls over manufacture of cheap processed foods combined with community play groups to get children active in team games. More tolerance of children playing street games" - Christina Milligan, Scotland