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Addressing childhood obesity through increased physical activity

Abstract

Obesity is affecting an increasing proportion of children globally. Despite an appreciation that physical activity is essential for the normal growth and development of children and prevents obesity and obesity-related health problems, too few children are physically active. A concurrent problem is that today's young people spend more time than previous generations did in sedentary pursuits, including watching television and engaging in screen-based games. Active behavior has been displaced by these inactive recreational choices, which has contributed to reductions in activity-related energy expenditure. Implementation of multifactorial solutions considered to offer the best chance of combating these trends is urgently required to redress the energy imbalance that characterizes obesity. The counterproductive 'shame and blame' mentality that apportions responsibility for the childhood obesity problem to sufferers, their parents, teachers or health-care providers needs to be changed. Instead, these groups should offer constant support and encouragement to promote appropriate physical activity in children. Failure to provide activity opportunities will increase the likelihood that the children of today will live less healthy (and possibly shorter) lives than their parents.

Key Points

  • Physical activity is essential for normal growth and development

  • All physical activity is important for children, irrespective of its intensity

  • Today's young people spend increasing amounts of time participating in sedentary behaviors

  • A variety of opportunities for physical activity should be sought

  • To change the sedentary outlook and minimal activity levels of young people will require the engagement (and a change in habits) of their parents and medical practitioners

  • Parents, teachers and health-care providers must offer constant support and encouragement to promote appropriate play activities

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A. P. Hills and A. D. Okely researched the data for the article. A. P. Hills and L. A. Baur provided a substantial contribution to discussions of the content and writing the article. A. P. Hills, A. D. Okely and L. A. Baur contributed equally to reviewing and/or editing of the manuscript before submission.

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Correspondence to Andrew P. Hills.

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Hills, A., Okely, A. & Baur, L. Addressing childhood obesity through increased physical activity. Nat Rev Endocrinol 6, 543–549 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2010.133

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