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Eye Opening Research: Lack of Exercise More Important Than Caloric Intake for Teens

Eye Opening Research: Lack of Exercise More Important Than Caloric Intake for Teens

SILVER SPRING, MD – November 19, 2013 – Recent research, which has been reported in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, indicates that a lack of physical exercise is the big reason for the risePediatrics logo in obese children, especially teenagers.

 A recent study of 13,000 young people found that, on average, obese teens consumed fewer calories than their friends who were slimmer. According to Dr. Michael Omidi, his brother Julian Omidi and their non-profit The Children’s Obesity Fund, this finding underscores the importance of an active lifestyle.

“We cannot stress the importance of eating healthy enough, certainly,” said Dr. Michael Omidi, co-founder of The Children’s Obesity Fund.  “However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the lack of physical exercise in children is the main culprit in the startling rise of childhood obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and all other types of preventable medical conditions.”

“The message for society and parents is:  Don’t assume that a child who’s overweight is overeating.  Obesity isn’t just a simple matter of eating more,” said study author Dr. Asheley Cockrell Skinner, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

If one of your children is carrying around too much weight, Dr. Skinner says the best thing you can do is to encourage some form of physical activity and/or exercise for that child.

“We know that physical activity is strongly related to a child being overweight, and how severely overweight, especially for girls,” stated Dr. Skinner.  “It's harder to get a sedentary child or adolescent to become active, especially if they are already overweight, than it is to encourage an already-active child.”

Dr. Skinner says the issue of inactivity can start in the latter years of elementary school.

“We see that young children -- those who are just starting school, about age six to eight -- are actually quite active, with most of them meeting recommendations of 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day,” observed Dr. Skinner.  “But even just a few years later, the drop in activity is steep, especially for overweight children.”

Dr. Skinner agrees that children who attend schools that offer daily physical activity and whose parents understand the importance of regular exercise will benefit greatly.

“Although we can't say for certain, it's probably not a coincidence that this (trend in inactivity) happens at the same time school plays a more prominent role in a child's life, and much of the time spent in school is sedentary,” said Dr. Skinner.  “Encouraging activity can't happen in just one place -- it will need to happen at school and at home. Kids are naturally active, as research shows and the parent of any six year old could tell you! But we create environments that make it hard for them to continue that.”

The findings of this national study complement the data from The Physical Activity Council which has reported that in 2012, 192 million Americans – nearly 70% of the country -- were not active to healthy standards, i.e. 30 minutes of exercise at least three days a week. In this study, youth inactivity percentages are growing at alarming rates.


Dr. Michael Omidi says there are segments of the U.S. population where daily physical activity is a way of life.  Consequently, obesity is not an issue with that portion of the population.  “We’ve seen studies of the Amish population which suggest that kids and adults living in communities where high-calorie foods are regularly consumed, but physical activity is a part of their daily rituals, do not have the same incidences of obesity and obesity related illnesses as the rest of the population,” continued Michael Omidi.

“PHIT America’s daily message of promoting a physically active lifestyle has never been more relevant than it is now,” said PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh.  “This study is eye opening. While the food industry has taken the heat as the major ‘cause’ of childhood obesity, we have known that inactivity is a bigger issue. Look at our society. We have become so sedentary with hours and hours sitting in front of a computer or TV. We don’t climb stairs anymore. We take our children everywhere in a car, instead of walking or riding a bike. Children just don’t go outside and play. And the sedentary research is proving this to be true. We need to get our children active, moving, fit, and playing more sports.”

A section of this report revealed a newsworthy trend:  Young, overweight children (age three to five) tend to keep their excess weight as they get older.  The Children’s Obesity Fund discovered that “as overweight children age – around the time they enter puberty – their bodies tended to want to hang on to the excess weight, causing them to remain obese despite caloric restrictions.”   Click Here for the full story.

“This is why PHIT America exists. Besides pushing local grassroots programs, we want to pass some important U.S. legislation which will promote activity for children,” continued Baugh. “Just check out the information on the PEP Program and PHIT Act on our website. These are real solutions to our inactivity issues. We encourage every American to click on the Advocate tab on to contact their Members of Congress to voice your support.”

This research was originally published in Pediatrics.  Researchers studied the dietary habits of approximately 13,000 children from the ages of 1 to 17 years, between 2001 and 2008.  The information came from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was conducted from 2001 to 2008.  The population used in the study is a representative reflection of the population in the United States.

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