This is not the first time that researchers have suggested that physical activity may not be a key factor in obesity. And previous research has also explored the idea that physical activity levels have decreased over the past 30 years or so in the United States – but found the opposite was true.
In this latest study, scientists from Germany’s University of Leipzig measured activity levels in 119 children aged 3 to 6 over a median of seven days using an accelerometer armband, and supplemented this information with parental questionnaires.
Their results found ‘no significant differences’ in physical activity levels among normal weight and overweight or obese children in this age group.
The researchers wrote that time spent engaged in physical activity was at or above recommended levels for the age group, and every child reached the minimum suggested 60 minutes of vigorous exercise per day when the results were averaged over a week. They also found that time spent playing on computers or watching TV was unrelated to physical activity levels.
However, children’s socioeconomic status was linked to overweight and obesity, with lower socioeconomic status linked to both overweight and increased media consumption.
The researchers concluded that physical activity level in pre-schoolers was not a reliable predictor of overweight or obesity – but added that this could be an important age range for the development of healthy habits, including encouraging physical activity, which is known to have many health benefits beyond weight reduction.
The full study is available online here.
“Physical Activity in 3–6 Year Old Children Measured by SenseWear Pro®: Direct Accelerometry in the Course of the Week and Relation to Weight Status, Media Consumption, and Socioeconomic Factors”
Authors: Yvonne Vorwerg, David Petroff, Wieland Kiess, and Susann Blüher