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Is the Canadian childhood obesity epidemic related to physical inactivity?


OBJECTIVE: This study examined the relation among children's physical activity, sedentary behaviours, and body mass index (BMI), while controlling for sex, family structure, and socioeconomic status.

DESIGN: Epidemiological study examining the relations among physical activity participation, sedentary behaviour (video game use and television (TV)/video watching), and BMI on a nationally representative sample of Canadian children.

SUBJECTS: A representative sample of Canadian children aged 7–11 (N=7216) from the 1994 National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth was used in the analysis.

MEASUREMENTS: Physical activity and sport participation, sedentary behaviour (video game use and TV/video watching), and BMI measured by parental report.

RESULTS: Both organized and unorganized sport and physical activity are negatively associated with being overweight (10–24% reduced risk) or obese (23–43% reduced risk), while TV watching and video game use are risk factors for being overweight (17–44% increased risk) or obese (10–61% increased risk). Physical activity and sedentary behaviour partially account for the association of high socioeconomic status and two-parent family structure with the likelihood of being overweight or obese.

CONCLUSION: This study provides evidence supporting the link between physical inactivity and obesity of Canadian children.

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This project was supported by the Canadian Population Health Initiative of the Canadian Institute for Health Information. We would like to thank Human Resources Development Canada for the use of data from the 1994 National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. The results presented and the views expressed in this paper are those of the authors.

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Correspondence to M S Tremblay.

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Tremblay, M., Willms, J. Is the Canadian childhood obesity epidemic related to physical inactivity?. Int J Obes 27, 1100–1105 (2003).

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  • body mass index
  • physical activity
  • sedentary behaviour
  • socioeconomic status
  • television watching

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