Obesity prevention in children: physical activity and nutrition

Nutrition. Jul-Aug 2004;20(7-8):704-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.007.


The current environmental experience of young children includes few opportunities for physical activity and an overabundance of high calorie foods. Sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition challenge children who are predisposed to metabolic disorders. Obesity is a logical response to this challenge. To prevent clinically significant obesity and later metabolic disease in predisposed youth, all sectors of society must work together to support strategies to change public opinion and behavior across the life span. Parental education in all medical settings is strongly recommended, especially if the parent(s) are obese, beginning with the first pregnancy visit to the physician. Schools should be primary targets for efforts to educate parents concerning the reduction of TV, computer games, and unhealthy snacks. Schools should be encouraged to adopt vending machine policies that promote healthy drinks and food in appropriate portion sizes and discouraged from providing unhealthy food as rewards for positive behavior or academic accomplishment. Schools should provide daily physical education and frequent periods of unstructured play in young children. Clinical treatment should be both encouraged and financially supported in children who are already overweight. Community wide efforts to increase awareness and promote environments that encourage physical activity and healthy nutrition are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet
  • Exercise*
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity / prevention & control*