Pennington Biomedical Research Study Shows Lack of Physical Activity is a Major Predictor of Childhood Obesity

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Global study is first of its kind to survey children across different cultures
Released: Monday, August 03, 2015

Baton Rouge, LA – New research published by LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center and its partner organizations points to a lack of physical activity as the biggest predictor of childhood obesity around the world.

The study results appear in the journal Obesity and link a lack of sleep and a lack of physical activity with too much television time as major lifestyle risk factors for childhood obesity.

"We know that diet and exercise play significant roles in overall health and weight management, but I was surprised to see that physical activity makes an even bigger impact on children's weight than we previously thought." said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director of population science and public health at Pennington Biomedical and one of the study's authors.

This study shows that obesity cannot be explained away by culture, class or status, and these research results reinforce the need for kids to engage in play time and other forms of physical activity each day."

The study shows that children who do not get enough moderate to vigorous physical activity each day are more likely to be obese than their counterparts who are more active. The results come from the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE). This research assessed associations between lifestyle behaviors and childhood obesity in a multinational setting. It is the first study to evaluate the health of children from diverse economic backgrounds, surveying both high and low-income children from countries ranging in levels of human development. Previous studies of this nature have evaluated only children from high-income countries.

Researchers collected data from more than 6,000 children between the ages of nine and 11 from 12 countries and every continent except Antarctica.

"At Pennington Biomedical, we deal in solutions for chronic diseases like obesity, and this cutting-edge research could eventually help us create universal interventions for childhood obesity," said Dr. William T. Cefalu, Pennington Biomedical's executive director.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 60 minutes per day of active play for children six years and older. The academy notes that only half of children between the ages of 12 and 21 regularly exercise.

The study, authored by Dr. Katzmarzyk and a team of researchers at Pennington Biomedical along with their international partners, is entitled "Relationship Between Lifestyle Behaviors and Obesity in Children Ages 9-11: Results from a 12-Country Study." The full text can be found here:

Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk holds the Marie Edana Corcoran Endowed Chair in Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes at Pennington Biomedical.

This research was funded by The Coca-Cola Company.


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.