The next time you wish to tell your kids that they
will become fat if they are not active, you will have to think twice!
We often believe that
inactivity leads to fatness. However, a
recently published study does not believe this to be true. On
the contrary, the researchers found that fatness leads to inactivity!
Childhood obesity is a major
cause of concern in a number of countries today. Obesity occurs due to an imbalance between intake of energy (in
the form of diet) and expenditure (in the form of physical activity, basal
metabolic activity rate of the body etc.).
A number of initiatives have been taken up by the UK government to
promote activity in children in schools as well as at home in an attempt to control
A study was carried out to test the association between fatness and
physical activity level in children.
A total of
307 children of 5 years of age were selected from different schools in the UK
for the study. These children were
examined once a year when they reached 7 years till they completed 10 years of
Physical activity was
measured for a total of 4 times in each child during the study with the help of
an instrument called the Actigraph accelerometer. The physical activity was measured for at least 5 consecutive days
including a weekend day each time.
As a measure of fatness,
whole body fat percentage was measured using dual energy x-ray
absorptiometry. Body mass index and
waist circumference were also measured.
From the selected group, 202
children completed the study.
The study found that, in
general, girls have a higher body mass index, waist circumference, body fat
percentage and are less physically active than boys. In both, boys as well as girls, body mass index, waist circumference
and body fat percentage increased with age, just as physical activity declined.
The study confirmed what was
earlier known - that physical activity and fatness are inversely related. Based
on statistical analysis, it however states that fatness is more likely to
affect future activity rather than a decrease in activity affecting
Body fat percentage was
predictive of changes in physical activity, but physical activity was not
predictive of changes in body fat.
Similar results were also
seen in adults in other studies.
The results of this study should however not be interpreted as physical
activity being useless. Physical
activity definitely has a positive influence on health and should be encouraged
. This study mainly highlights that only increasing physical
activity is not the answer to controlling childhood obesity in various government
Several explanations have
been suggested to explain why increase in fatness may lead to physical
inactivity. Fat children may perceive
their bodies negatively and therefore avoid taking part in sports. Exercise in obese children may cause muscle
pain, breathlessness and fatigue faster than in children of normal weight.
Further large-scale studies
are required to establish these findings and find out the exact reasons for the
same. In addition, since diet has been
successful in various studies in controlling obesity, studies should probably
focus on this aspect in controlling childhood obesity.
Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness: a
longitudinal study in children; Metcalf et al; Archives of Diseases in