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Exercise 'does not prevent childhood obesity'

A new study has revealed that exercise doesn't prevent children from becoming obese, for they are actually programmed to be sporty or couch potatoes.

health and fitness Updated: Jun 30, 2008 14:54 IST

Contrary to the commonly accepted wisdom, exercise doesn't prevent children from becoming obese, for a new study has revealed that they are actually programmed to be sporty or couch potatoes.

In their study, researchers have found that physical activity daily has little or no effect on whether kids are fat or not, a finding which means the obesity epidemic among them is caused more by what they eat than lack of exercise.

In fact, according to the researchers, the amount of exercise a child does is not linked to their Body Mass Index, a calculation of their height and weight used to measure if they are a healthy weight or not.

"Each child is programmed to a particular level of activity whatever you do to them they will modify their activity to remain at that level, some will always do more and some will always do less.

"Some children do meet the physical activity guidelines and some don't but BMI will not tell you which ones do and which ones don't.

"But it is worth doing exercise because there is clearly a benefit in doing so, it is just that the BMI does not reflect that," lead researcher Terry Wilkin was quoted by The Daily Telegraph as saying.

He said the kids who are obese and who if they remain overweight into adulthood will be at a greater risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer later in life.

Wilkin and colleagues at Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth came to the conclusion after monitoring the long-term health of 300 children from 54 different schools, who were all five years old.

The physical activity levels of the participants were measured for one week at the age of five, six, seven and eight by wearing a device around the waist and measurements were taken of their insulin resistance which can be a pre-cursor to diabetes, blood fat and cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Some children did as little as ten minutes per day at the recommended intensity of the equivalent of walking at four miles per hour. Others did 90 minutes of activity on average per day.

"In children, physical activity above the recommended intensity is associated with a progressive improvement in metabolic health but not with a change in BMI or fatness," the researchers said.

The results of the study have been published in the 'Archives of Disease in Childhood' journal.