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Psychol Health Med. 2012;17(3):255-73. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2011.608806. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

Physical activity, sedentary behavior, and childhood obesity: a review of cross-sectional studies.

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Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA.


This systematic review examined the associations of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior to childhood overweight and obesity in cross-sectional studies from the last 10 years. Cross-sectional approaches are cost-effective methods for identifying relationships that can then be followed by longitudinal studies to establish temporality and create targeted interventions. The 17 selected studies contained a variety of measures of PA and sedentary behavior. PA was related negatively to child weight status in some studies; however, it was not associated in others. In general, sedentary behaviors were positively associated with weight status. However, gender differences appeared in some studies for each variable. Limitations of cross-sectional approaches were discussed, as was the need for more accurate measures of PA, sedentary behavior, and body composition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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