Exercise 'interventions' make no difference to overweight children
Extra-curricular exercise sessions found to make little impact on children's daily activityExperts suggest diet and healthy eating are key to tackling childhood obesity
14:39 GMT, 28 September 2012
Making overweight children to do more physical activity won't help them to shed the pounds, according to a British study.
Researchers from Plymouth University, who reviewed trials from 1990 to 2012, found that 'exercise interventions' had a negligible effect.
Experts suggest that the answer to curing childhood obesity instead lies in reducing calories in the diet.
Playtime: The authors said after-school activity clubs may simply replace a period of time that children usually spend playing outdoors
The team looked at 30 randomised controlled trials, eight of which looked specifically at overweight children. The trials involved more than 14,000 children, each of whom had performed at least four weeks of exercise as the result of an 'intervention.'
One US trial that was studied sought to increase the physical activity of 729 children by providing three 90-minute exercise sessions a week after the end of school.
Each session was made up of 60 minutes of high intensity activity. But the study found that halfway through the trial the children were only carrying out an extra five minutes of walking or running per day.
Another trial in Scotland carried out over six months aimed to increase the activity of 268 nursery school-aged children by providing three half-hour sessions per week.
This time the children actually became less active, spending one minute less per day walking or running compared with the control group.
The authors said: 'It could be that the intervention specific exercise sessions may simply be replacing periods of equally intense activity.
'For example, after-school activity clubs may simply replace a period of time that children usually spend playing outdoors or replace a time later in the day/week when the child would usually be active.'
They said as the interventions achieve 'small-to-negligible' increases in activity they would have minimal impact on children's body fat.
Lead author Brad Metcalf weight-loss initiatives should emphasise diet and healthy eating.
The Department of Health has defended its own intervention programme in light of this study.
'Our Change4life scheme is not just about encouraging people to do exercise, it is also about changing the way we all manage our daily intake of calories,' a department spokesman said.
'That is why the Government has worked with lots of high street restaurants on a responsibility deal which has seen calories printed on menus so that everyone can make informed choices about their food.'