Prevent childhood obesity with more exercise

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As the fight to curb the obesity epidemic wears on, a new meta-analysis finds that child obesity prevention strategies, such as those that emphasize more physical activity, can effectively help kids lose weight, especially among children between the ages of six and 12.

Published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, the review included 37 studies encompassing nearly 28,000 kids, and found that, unlike individual interventions, more comprehensive programs that encourage healthful eating, physical activity, and positive attitudes toward body image were successful in lowering obesity.

Some of the interventions under investigation included increasing the number of opportunities for physical activity during the school week, giving more attention to home activities that encourage children to be more active while reducing screen time, and improving the nutritional quality of food supplied in schools.

Lead study author Dr. Elizabeth Waters from the McCaughey Centre at the University of Melbourne notes that, given the range of programs included in this review, it is hard to say exactly which components are the best, but we think the strategies to focus on are those that seek to change environments, rather than just the behavior of individuals.

ACSH's Dr. Ruth Kava agrees, and thinks that kids need to be more active these days, especially as physical education classes in schools now are not nearly as rigorous or common as they were in the past.

And instead of focusing solely on so-called junk foods, ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan appreciates that the study underscores the importance of getting kids more active.

Complacency about the current state of childhood obesity is not an option," says Dr. Kava. "We need to keep trying to implement strategies that help overweight kids get back into shape or prevent them from becoming obese in the first place. Now we know that at least some of the interventions in this review are effective.