Paediatric obesity, physical activity and the musculoskeletal system

Obes Rev. 2009 Sep;10(5):576-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00587.x. Epub 2009 May 12.


The current epidemic of paediatric obesity is consistent with a myriad of health-related comorbid conditions. Despite the higher prevalence of orthopaedic conditions in overweight children, a paucity of published research has considered the influence of these conditions on the ability to undertake physical activity. As physical activity participation is directly related to improvements in physical fitness, skeletal health and metabolic conditions, higher levels of physical activity are encouraged, and exercise is commonly prescribed in the treatment and management of childhood obesity. However, research has not correlated orthopaedic conditions, including the increased joint pain and discomfort that is commonly reported by overweight children, with decreases in physical activity. Research has confirmed that overweight children typically display a slower, more tentative walking pattern with increased forces to the hip, knee and ankle during 'normal' gait. This research, combined with anthropometric data indicating a higher prevalence of musculoskeletal malalignment in overweight children, suggests that such individuals are poorly equipped to undertake certain forms of physical activity. Concomitant increases in obesity and decreases in physical activity level strongly support the need to better understand the musculoskeletal factors associated with the performance of motor tasks by overweight and obese children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Child
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Musculoskeletal System / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*