Energy expenditure, physical activity, and obesity in children

Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001 Aug;48(4):931-53. doi: 10.1016/s0031-3955(05)70349-7.


Although there are physiologic and genetic influences on the various components of energy metabolism and body weight regulation, and a major portion of individual differences in body weight can be explained by genetic differences, it seems unlikely that the increased global prevalence of obesity has been driven by a dramatic change in the gene pool. It is more likely and more reasonable that acute changes in behavior and environment have contributed to the rapid increase in obesity and that genetic factors may be important in the deferring individual susceptibilities to these changes. The most striking behavioral changes that have occurred have been an increased reliance on high-fat and energy-dense "fast foods," with larger portion sizes, coupled with an ever-increasing sedentary lifestyle. The more sedentary lifestyle is caused by an increased reliance on technology and labor-saving devices, which has reduced the need for physical exertion for everyday activities. Examples of energy-saving devices that have resulted in a secular decline in physical activity include: Increased use of automated transport rather than walking or biking Central heating and use of automated equipment, such as washing machines, in the household. Reduction in physical activity in the workplace because of computers, automated equipment, and electronic mail. Increased use of television and computers for entertainment and leisure activities. Use of elevators and escalators rather than stairs. Increased concern for crime, which has reduced the likelihood of outdoor playing. Poor urban planning that does not provide adequate biking paths or even sidewalks in some communities. Thus, the increasing prevalence, numerous health risks, and astounding economic costs of obesity clearly justify widespread efforts toward prevention efforts. These prevention efforts should begin in childhood because the behaviors are learned and continue through the lifetime.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Calorimetry
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control