Thursday, 29 July 2010

"What Controls Physical Activity in Children?"

From Radio 4's Case Notes program; Childhood Obesity:
  • Dr Mark Porter reports on the unique study that is tracking obesity from childhood. Researchers in Plymouth have been following the progress of a group of 300 children since they were born. Now they are teenagers, and data from taking blood samples and weighing them has helped the scientists to reveal that obesity follows gender lines and that diet is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight.
At 14:30 one of the researchers says:
  • "I think if you were to ask a health strategist who believed that physical activity was important in the management and prevention of childhood obesity I think he would say 'well what I want to know is what controls physical activity' because I need to know what controls it before I can do anything about it.

    And I think if you put that question to the public at large they'd give you the environmental answer - it's green spaces, it's physical education at school, it's leisure activities after school, it's parental encouragement.

    If think if you ask the same question "What controls physical activity in children?" to a biologist, particularly an evolutionary biologist, I think he would suggest that, well, it's most unlikely that the physical activity of children is just left to chance or to the city council.  Much more likely that because energy balance is so critical to survival in an evolutionary sense, most likely that there is some form of central control."
I like his bit about the city council!  The Early Bird Study's biggest finding so far is that the obesity of a child is strongly correlated to the obesity of the parents (fathers to sons and daughters to mothers).  About 90% of the excess weight gained particularly by pre-pubescent girls, was gained between the years of 0 to 5.

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