Sometimes kids are like little angels, but then they wake up. Everybody knows that little kids won’t sit still and be quiet. Even though it doesn’t seem like it should be necessary to study and demonstrate this terrible force of nature, that is what one group of investigators reported recently using South African children. (1) But besides looking at childhood activity they also looked at correlations of activity with obesity in children and that’s more interesting and valuable maybe because you also know we are in the middle of a world wide epidemic of obesity that often starts at an early age. Furthermore widespread punditry acts like the solution to that problem is also obvious – things like we’re watching too much TV and not playing outside enough. That, however, cannot be shown to be true.
In this project 268 three to six year old children were recruited from urban high-income, urban low-income and rural low-income settings from in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Height and weight were measured to calculate the main outcome variables: BMI and BMI-for-age Z-score (BAZ). They also attached handy motion sensor devices to these kids to objectively measure physical activity. They also did some tests of gross motor development to assess gross motor skills.
They found that more children were overweight/obese and had a higher BAZ from urban low-income settings compared with urban high-income settings and rural low-income settings. Being less physically active was associated with thinness, but not overweight/obesity. Time spent in physical activity at moderate and vigorous
intensities was positively associated with BMI and BAZ. Gross motor proficiency was not associated with fatness in this sample.
What does this mean? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe if we want kids to be seen and not heard we can just stop feeding them as much.
1. Draper CE et al. Cross-sectional associations of physical activity and gross motor proficiency with adiposity in South African children of pre-school age. Public Health Nutrition:1-10 doi:10.1017/S1368980018003579
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (740) 354-6605.