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With Teen Obesity, Inactivity Is Only Part of the Problem

I panic every time I see another "exercise doesn't work!" story — until I read between the lines and learn once again that exercise is a good thing. On the heels of its conversation-starting cover story on the exercise "myth," Time is tackling a new study of teen obesity that claims inactivity is only partly to blame for heavier kids.

Obesity rates in teenagers have triple between 1976 and 2004, with lack of exercise the suspected culprit. But a new report published in Obesity Reviews says that physical activity levels among teens have actually stayed fairly steady. So does that mean that exercise doesn't matter? Hardly, so


Unfortunately, this latest study only looked at activity levels, not eating habits, and the participants were self-reporting on their own habits, which can lead to unreliable data. These figures merely suggest that the increase in teen obesity can't be explained away by teens' lack of exercise, according to Dr. Youfa Wang, the lead author of the study. Here's more:

So does this mean that exercise isn't important in controlling weight? As tempting as that conclusion might be, Wang and other health experts say that's not exactly what the new data show. . . . While exercise may not contribute directly to weight loss, it is critical for maintaining a healthy weight, since it helps calibrate the balance between energy taken in and energy burned off. "The data is too gross, and too general, to assume that [exercise doesn't count]," warns Dr. Janet Walberg Rankin, a professor in the department of human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech. "We need to have a dual approach to weight involving both activity and diet. I would hate for people to take away from this study that activity has nothing to do with weight."

Phew! Thanks, doc. I also hope that's not what people take away from this study. In fact, to me, it says the opposite. If teen obesity is going up because teens have increased their calorie intake without increasing their activity levels, then that seems to say pretty clearly that exercise does make a difference. Do you agree?

teenprograms teenprograms 7 years
It is really a matter on concern that the rate of obesity in children has increased tripled between 1976 and 2004. This is due to the lack of exercise and food choice awareness. Junk foods, oily foods, high carbohydrate foods make the teens overweight. Exercise programs are good for reducing body weight for life long. Now parents also have options for their obesity affected kids to send them weight loss boot camps or summer camps where physical training is provided by expert trainers to get fat free body frequently After all a balanced body makes the personality attractive.
adelaidekay adelaidekay 7 years
I didn't get fat until I started school. All u really do is sit for 9 hours a day. Actually for me it was 9 & a half hours my bus rides where long I hated it. I got so depressed when I started school & to top it the school I went to didn't really teach you much. I swear I was smarter before I 1st started to kindergarden then whe I quit & got my GED.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 7 years
It's sad. I remember as I child my cousins and I would always be running around the backyard, playing at the park, at the very least doing something active. . . . but many of my cousins became obese. It's not just activity that is needed, but proper nutrition. You let a kid eat whatever it wants and of course they're going to go for the unhealthy stuff because it "tastes better". Teaching children how to eat healthy fruits, veggies, leans meats is important. Making it fun and tasty is just as important.
tylergrl33 tylergrl33 7 years
Jesser- Aren't there about a million health articles/books/etc out there about what is and is not healthy to eat? The education is definitely out there!
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
If a child is overweight for reasons other than a medical issue - it is the fault of the parent. Parents are in control of what their child eats or how much physical activity they get - especially the younger they are. If a parent doesn't encourage their child to eat healthy, to learn to like fruits and vegetables, and just give in every time they ask for fast food and sweets, than the parent is responsible for creating an overweight child. That child has neither the willpower nor knowledge to make decisions about what they eat, that is what parents are for! To teach them how to have a healthy lifestyle. If the child doesn't learn while growing up, it becomes a lifelong challenge to be healthy. My biggest pet peeve is when I see obese people who see no problem with letting their children be obese. A friend of my family (who is on the larger side) has a son who is obese (10 years old - probably goes around 170 lbs). When that child comes over, all he does is eat. When he finishes a soda and bag of chips - 5 minutes later, he's asking us to cook him something while grabbing more snacks and soda. The parents see nothing wrong with the child eating continuously and it upsets me. This child is most likely doomed to battle obesity and related health problems are because of lazy parenting. It's so sad!
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
I don't know if there are any studies on this, but it seems like people who are obese as children or teens are more likely to accept being overweight as inevitable. Children don't know about nutrition, so they don't understand that they are eating junk food and that it is making them obese. It's very sad.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I don't think there's an excuse to have overweight children unless there is an actual medical problem.
tylergrl33 tylergrl33 7 years
Very frustrating b/c so many people are not meant to be parents (example being in Soapbox's comment). If you're going to be a parent, step up to the plate and cook your kids healthy meals and let them be active. Being active is always a win/win. They make friends and have fun.
KeepOnKeepingOn KeepOnKeepingOn 7 years
Not only does childhood obesity set kids up for an unhealthy and illness ridden life, it also sets them up for lack of self-esteem and self-worth. I work at an elementary school and I can say first hand that children can and will be mean to other kids. They'll be mean to any kids, really, but especially to ones that stand out and to ones that society tells them to be mean to. The one, or most noticeable, overweight kid in my program is frequently picked on and called gross and fat. It's sad, but not only are parents setting their kids up for a very unhealthy future, they're also setting them up for a life with a whole host of extra/different personal and societal problems.
onthebus onthebus 7 years
Sometimes I just get mad when I see obese children. What kind of parent lets their child become so unhealthy? I work in a coffee shop and I see so many parents buy their already overweight kids cookies and sugary drinks loaded with empty calories, and I just want to refuse service. Do people not realize the health problems they are creating for their own children??
natasha1970 natasha1970 7 years
Sorry - I meant I agree with you Soapbox:)
natasha1970 natasha1970 7 years
I live in Jamaica and I didn't have McDonalds or Burger King as a child - in fact the first Burger King didn't get here until I was about 18 years old...however ever since we have allowed those fast food joints to come to our shores our kids have begun to struggle with obesity issues. I have read that since the introduction of the "fast food joint" to many developing countries, they are now struggling with obesity and diseases associated with obesity. India is now the "diabetis capital" of the world with children as young as 10 years old showing signs of it because of fast food AND not to be left out - I-N-A-C-T-I-V-I-T-Y!!!!! It's such a shame though. Anyway, I haven't had any form of fast food since I was 20 years old and i think that this is what has saved me from high blood pressure, diabetis etc, even though i am an overweight person (in the process of shedding - just lost 35 lbs). I agree Diamond - some of these parents here in Jamaica just stop off at Burger King for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the kids nag for it and get their way so I do blame the parents as well!!
soapbox soapbox 7 years
* I know
soapbox soapbox 7 years
A a know a young girl who's morbidly obese (only 3!) and was hospitalized. Her mother still over feeds her, anything and everything. And she steals food. She stole a bag of cookies out of my bag and ate the entire bag, after eating 30 hot wings. And the mother doesn't object. That part sickens me. How could you kill your child like that? A toddler for heaven's sake!
crazylovevbug crazylovevbug 7 years
I agree. As a high school student, I can see most of my peers chowing down soda and chips from the vending machines. Also, as far as excersize is concerned, it is difficult to get in. P.E. is oftentimes a joke where all it is is a teacher taking attendance and kids sitting or standing around most of the time, and it is a requirement for only two years. And getting in exercize on your own time? With the amount of homework we get, we barely have any freetime besides on the weekends, when we'd rather be hanging out with friends. I, personally, try to get it in at least every other day, and eat a healthy diet, but it is a challenge with everything else in high school life.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
Of course exercise makes a difference. Any study that says differently is highly suspect in my opinion. I honestly feel so sorry for obese teens. You know their parents aren't teaching them proper nutrition and there's going to be a lifelong re-learning ahead of them.
duffyk2 duffyk2 7 years
Seeing obese kids makes me sick to my stomach and there are so many too. Parents need to step it up and take responsibility, now is the time to make changes, in diet and activity levels. Lets teach our kids how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I think that kids these days are eating WAY more calories than they could hope to just burn off by playing an extra hour of basketball every day. Granted, kids need to be active, but working out doesn't give anyone license to just eat Doritos and Taco Bell all day. Kids need to be eating healthier snacks like fruit, veggies, nuts, etc. and still staying active.
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