Overweight kids lack movement skills for exercise

5 August 2011

Overweight children often lack the ability to perform the basic movement skills required to boost exercise, such as kicking, sliding and hopping, an Australian study shows.

A total of 153 overweight and obese children from Newcastle and Wollongong, with an average age of 8 years, were video-assessed for fundamental movement and ball skills, including underhand roll and strike, leap and jump, dribble and kick, and throwing and catching.

Each child was given a demonstration of the correct technique before each sports skill test.

For all skills, across all age groups, the prevalence of mastery was significantly lower among the study participants than a reference group of children from the US, the researchers found, in the first study of its kind, which was reported in the journal Obesity (2011, online 28 Jul).

The largest differences were seen in the run, slide, hop, dribble and kick skills.

For those aged 6–7 years, no child in the overweight/obese sample exhibited mastery for 7 out of 10 fundamental movement skills, compared with 25–78 per cent of the reference group. Of the children in the study, 58 per cent were girls and 77 per cent were obese.

The researchers, from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and the universities of Wollongong, Newcastle and Sydney, concluded that specific movement patterns aimed at improving positioning of the body and feet, control or release of an object at the optimal position, and better use of arms to maintain force, would improve the children’s movement skills.

"Physical activity programs ... may need to address deficiencies in fundamental movement skills ... required for ... health-enhancing physical activity," the researchers said.

Otherwise, there remained a concern that overweight children may become caught in "a perpetuating cycle of physical inactivity and unhealthy weight gain."

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