The 106 healthy children in the study averaged 8 years old. Measurements of their height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and percentage body fat were obtained. Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) is a component measurement of total daily calorie consumption, resting metabolic rate, and physical activity level (PAL). Measurement of TEE in this group over a 10-day period resulted in scores that were significantly lower than World Health Organization recommendations for school age children (13% lower for boys and 9% lower for girls). As expected, the percentage of body fat was significantly higher in girls than in boys, while fat-free mass was significantly higher in boys than in girls. In boys, PAL had a significant effect on body weight, BMI, fat mass, and percentage of body fat. There was no significant association in girls between PAL and weight measurements. As a possible explanation of the differences between the sexes, the authors suggest that other factors in girls, such as a greater effect of energy or fat consumption on body fatness, may be a more important determinant of weight than physical activity.
The results imply that, particularly in boys, declines in physical activity may be contributing to the rise in childhood obesity. Appropriate preventive interventions, such as additional emphasis on physical activities during school time, could be targeted to this age group.
Ball, Elizabeth J, et al. Total energy expenditure, body fatness, and physical activity in children aged 6-9 y. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;74:524-8.
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