Page last updated at 23:36 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 00:36 UK

Clumsy young 'face obesity risk'

Bathroom scales
Rates of obesity are on the rise

Clumsy and poorly co-ordinated children could be at higher risk of obesity in later life, a study says.

Researchers found youngsters who performed least well in tests assessing cognitive and physical function were far more likely to be obese aged 33.

Experts suggested it was likely such children shied away from sport.

The research, published online by the British Medical Journal, was based on tests involving more than 11,000 people.

They formed part of the on-going National Child Development Study in Great Britain, which began in 1958.

All children, regardless of their natural abilities, should be given adequate encouragement and support to be physically active at school and at home
Dr Ian Campbell, of Weight Concern

Teachers and medical officers assessed pupils when they were aged seven and 11 for their ability in hand control, coordination, and clumsiness.

Tests included copying a simple design to measure accuracy, marking squares on a paper within a minute, and the time in seconds it took to pick up 20 matches.

When the participants were aged 33, their body mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) was recorded and analysis showed poorer function was associated with obesity.

In the case of seven-year-olds, poor co-ordination meant the risk of obesity was twice as high, the research by a joint team from Imperial College London and Sweden's Orebro University Hospital found.


The reseachers did not look at what was causing the link between obesity and clumsiness, but other experts predicted it could be related to the amount of sport youngsters went on to play.

Dr Ian Campbell, medical director at Weight Concern, said poorly co-ordinated children may be less active, but added obesity was a complex problem and there were likely to be other underlying causes.

"While this helps us understand the root causes, it doesn't change the fundamental problem that we are, as a nation, less active than we should be.

"All children, regardless of their natural abilities, should be given adequate encouragement and support to be physically active at school and at home."

And Cambridge University obesity expert Dr Nick Finer said: "This research adds to other work that tells us that most people don't become obese just because they want to, and that many of the causes are subtle and complex."

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