For all the complicated, hyped up weight loss theories out there, scientists have long known that the obesity problem boils down to a simple equation: if you take in more calories than you burn you will gain weight. Period.
A new study by the University of Southern California, conducted for the National Institute of Health, explored one half of the equation. They found that the tipping point between health and obesity for children may be as little as 16 minutes a day. That is how much more exorcise normal weight gain kids get over their obese friends. The kids in the study (N=3,106) wore accelerometers to track their levels of physical activity for a period of 4 days. Normal weight children ages 6 to 17 averaged 59 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, (right in line with NIH recommendations that all kids get at least an hour), while obese kids logged in only 43 minutes daily.
This may not seem like a lot, but averaged out over weeks, months, and years, it is a significant difference ... one that would certainly distort those calories burned equations in the wrong direction. (30 minutes of bike ridding, for example, can burn more than 250 calories.)
Girls, who averaged 20 minutes less daily physical activity than boys, are particularly in need of more exorcise. There was also a disturbing drop around adolescence, when daily physical activity plummeted -- to an average of 33 minutes for kids 12 to 15 years, and a mere 25 minutes for teens 16 to 19 years.
In the fight against obesity, little difference and daily habits matter. That is why parents should do whatever they can to squeeze in more physical activity -- weather it be getting up to dance, doing jumping jacks during commercials, or taking time to chase kids around the yard. Because it turns out that 16 minutes might make a world of difference.
For more information on the safety and health of children visit www.keepyourchildsafe.org
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