Researchers found exercise by itself will not help kids lose weight
This MedPage Today article pours buckets of cold water over the notion that young children are not getting enough exercise to ward off obesity.
Lead researcher Dr. John J. Reilly from the Division of Developmental Medicine at the University of Glasgow along with his fellow researchers wanted to look at the effectiveness of physical activity on the prevention of childhood obesity in a randomized controlled trial. Specifically, they were looking at the reduction in the body mass index (BMI) of preschool-age children over a one-year period.
The research included 545 children from 36 preschools in Glasgow, Scotland with a mean age of 4.2 years old when the study began. They were required to participate in three 30-minute exercise sessions each week in the first six months of the study as well as health education courses in the home to foster increased physical activity among the young study participants outside of school rather than doing such slothful activities such as watching television, playing video games, or any other non-exercise activities.
While the primary focus of the study was on the BMI, Dr. Reilly also wanted to see how much exercise the children got versus their sedentary behavior and whether that made any measurable difference.
The results? NO SIGNIFICANT EFFECT WAS MADE ON BMI AFTER SIX MONTHS AND TWELVE MONTHS! The control group and study group were virtually the same with a standard deviation score for BMI at 0.46 after six month and 0.41 after twelve months. The control group BMI was exactly the same at 0.43 after six and twelve months.
However, one difference was the kids who had increased exercise did have significantly better motor skills than their control counterparts when adjusted for sex and baseline performance.
As a result, Dr. Reilly and his researchers concluded that physical activity is not a factor in weight loss among children. They state that perhaps other changes are necessary to turn the tide of obesity among young children.
"Successful interventions to prevent obesity in early childhood may require changes not just at nursery, school, and home but in the wider environment," the researchers found. "Changes in other behaviors, including diet, may also be necessary."
This study was published in the October 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal.
So all the talk about kids needing to sneak in more exercise has been just a smokescreen to avoid dealing with the real culprit in childhood obesity--POOR DIET! While ideas such as weighted toys sound like a good thing to do at face value, this study by Dr. Reilly clearly shows exercise alone is not the answer. It MUST be in correlation with other changes, including what we are feeding kids.
Whether people realize it or not, this is a very serious issue that has potentially lethal consequences for overweight and obese children when they mature into adulthood. Fat babies make fat adults and there's no getting around that fact. If we can stop the obesity epidemic while children are still young, then a lot of the health problems that are plaguing the adult population today can be avoided. That doesn't mean we need more money thrown at the problem either.
But the changes in diet have to make good nutritional sense for our children as well. Kids these days are eating way too much sugar and other refined carbohydrates for their bodies to use for energy. You've got people like former President Bill Clinton pushing for healthier food choices in schools, but many of these recommended foods are still LOADED with carbohydrates!
Considering the state of childhood obesity is where it is today, it may not be a bad idea for parents to start looking at the low-carb lifestyle for their children and themselves for that matter. It's certainly something worth a closer look in light of the failure of what we are doing right now.
Clearly, something is NOT working, so making measureable and meaningful changes in the diet we are feeding our kids is sorely needed. Your children can exercise to your heart's content and that's a good thing--A VERY GOOD THING! But if you keep feeding your family garbage foods that are doing nothing to add value to their health, then all that exercise is negated.
Of course, critics of Dr. Reilly's study will claim the children did not get the 30-minutes-a-day minimum amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity recommended recently by the American Heart Association. But it may not make a difference if they're still eating all those high-carb, high-sugar foods that tend to plague our diet in modern times.
The study was paid for by the British Heart Foundation, the Glasgow City Council, and the Caledonian Research Foundation.
You can e-mail Dr. Reilly about his study at firstname.lastname@example.org.