It's been drilled into our healthy-minded heads that if our children aren't active, they're going to end up obese and unhealthy individuals. But a new study says that's not so.
The EarlyBird Diabetes Study says that a child's sedentary lifestyle may not contribute to obesity at all.
Stop the treadmill, what?!
Researchers recognized that while fatter children are more inactive, it doesn't mean the inactivity came first; rather, being fat could make one inactive. So they set out to address this chicken-or-egg question and find out which comes first -- obesity or lack of exercise.
According to the BBC, after studying 200 children over 11 years, researchers in the UK found "no indication that doing more physical activity had any effect on weight, but they did find that children who put on weight did relatively less exercise."
According to ScienceDaily, the implications of the study are "profound."
"The physical activity of children (crucial to their fitness and well-being) may never improve unless the burgeoning levels of childhood obesity are first checked. If this cannot be achieved through physical activity, the focus has to be on what -- and how much -- children consume."
So, does that mean we can turn the TV back on?
Step away from the remote. As Dr. David Haslam from the UK's National Obesity Forum told BBC:
"The EarlyBird team really force us to question our comfortable assumptions regarding childhood obesity. What we, as clinicians must do, is nod reverently at their work, learn lessons from it, and re-appraise our own practices accordingly. What we shouldn't do is take the paper at face value and allow lean children to be as lazy as they please, as that would be a catastrophic mistake!"
Catastrophic indeed. Even if weight and exercise aren't linked, exercise has plenty of other proven benefits for children and adults alike such as warding off disease and improving mental health. And the study does suggest that nutrition may be more important than ever when it comes to weight management, so step away from that junk food too.
Do you have an obese child? If so, do you think inactivity has contributed to his or her size?
Image via stars alive/Flickr