CaloriesChildren's HealthExerciseObesity

Blame the junk food – Bad diet, not lack of exercise, is behind child obesity crisis

A verbatim extract from the article: “Poor nutrition is the cause of obesity in children, not lack of physical exercise, a scientist claimed yesterday. Professor Terrence Wilkin said the crisis was being caused by larger portion sizes of unhealthy foods. His research undermines the government’s strategy to cut child obesity by focusing on more sports facilities in schools. He said there was no evidence at all that physical education lessons have any impact on a child’s weight.”

The debate on exercise is fascinating. Some people say, “…if only people did more, they would not be overweight…” The government in the UK seems to think that we shouldn’t be too worried about what our children eat – so long as they are doing lots of exercise, and not playing on computer games, all will be fine.

One of the most brilliant TV programmes I ever watched blew this theory sky high. The programme was called “30 Minutes” and it was all about childhood obesity. During the programme there was an experiment where the presenter, Nick Cohen, took a boys’ football team from London, England, and split them into three groups. One third of the team were given an apple; another third a bag of crisps and the final group a confectionery bar. The teenagers were then asked to run around an athletics track continuously until they had burned off what they had eaten. The apple group needed to run for 13 minutes to burn off the apple. The crisp group needed to run for 42 minutes to burn off the crisps and the confectionery group needed to run for 1 hr and 5 minutes to burn off their item. The presenter explained that, if a child ate a bag of crisps, a confectionery bar, a burger & chips and had a fizzy drink, they would need to run for 5 hours to burn that off!

In short, exercise alone is not going to solve your weight problem. As the “30 Minutes” programme showed, the amount of exercise that you need to do to burn off food is astonishing. Furthermore, exercise actually increases your need for energy/fuel. When you exercise, you need more energy (calories), so you need to be careful that you don’t finish doing exercise and find yourself so hungry that you want to eat more than you have just used up.

Please don’t think that exercise is a bad thing to do. It is in fact a great thing to do, but it won’t solve your weight problem. Exercise tones your body and it makes you feel more energetic and healthier. It has been shown to lift mood, reduce stress and make people feel happier and more positive. Exercise can develop the three main aspects of fitness – strength, stamina and suppleness – all great for your health. You can have fun and meet people doing sport, or joining a gym. There are many good reasons to exercise, but trying to rely on exercise to lose weight is not one of them.

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