After controversial reports claimed that diet is the key to weight loss, and exercise is not necessary, a new report is now giving exercise a stronger boost.
According to advanced technological research from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), physical activity levels play an integral role in the development of childhood obesity.
The report, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, states that doing 15 minutes a day of moderate exercise lowered a child’s risk of obesity by almost 50 percent. The activity must be at least at the level of a brisk walk, enough to make a child slightly out of breath, in order to be beneficial.
ALSPAC is an ongoing research project based in the University of Bristol that enrolled 14,000 pregnant women in 1991-2 and has followed most of the children and parents in great detail ever since. The individual activity study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.
While it is safe to say that those who are obese or overweight tend to do less physical activity, it has been difficult to accurately measure body fat and energy expenditure. As a result, the battle between eating too much and doing too little as the blame for growing obesity, has continued.
Researchers, consisting of various collaborators from American and British universities and the MRC Epidemiology Unit Cambridge, used advanced technology to monity 5,500 12-year-olds from ALSPAC, measuring their activity levels for 10 hours a day, from 3 days to a week.
Each child wore a “Actigraph activity monitor,” which sits on a belt around the waist and records every move the child made. Researchers also measured each child’s body fat using an X-ray emission scanner, which differentiates muscle and fat deposits in the body and is much more accurate than the BMI system.
From these measurements, researchers found that those who engaged in low levels of activity and had a lack of moderate or vigorous exercise in their daily life had more fat mass. However, researchers also noticed how even slight increases in a child’s daily exercise routine, such as walking briskly to school instead of driving, could have dramatic long-term results in preventing obesity.
“This study provides some of the first robust evidence on the link between physical activity and obesity in children. We know that diet is important, but what this research tells us is that we mustn’t forget about activity. It’s been really surprising to us how even small mounts of exercise appear to have dramatic results,” said head researcher Professor Chris Riddoch from Bath University.