Another Risk Factor for Obesity

Posted 02/20/2017 | By HealthCorps

According to new research from Coventry University, young girls who have “poor mastery of fundamental movement skills (FMS)” seem to have a higher risk of developing obesity compared to boys with similar low skills.

The study involved 250 girls and boys age six to eleven.  It evaluated running, catching (ball) and balance skills among the subjects.  After gathering performance data on all the subjects, the researchers then correlated motor skill performance and body fat measurements to investigate the relationship between the two.  Habitual physical activity was also taken into account.  

Findings included:

  • Amount of body fat was higher among girls with low FMS compared to boys with the same level of FMS
  • Amount of body fat was higher in girls with low FMS compared to girls with medium level or higher level FMS
  • There did not appear to be any significant difference in “body fatness” between boys in the low, medium or higher level FMS categories.

The lead researcher, an exercise physiologist, acknowledged that previous studies on primary school children with higher BMIs showed that they were more likely to have poorer fundamental movement skills, however, the aim of this particular study was to understand the relationship between excess fat and motor skills, and also to establish whether or not there was a gender difference in the findings.

It’s clear that there needs to be more of a focus on the strategies used to enhance and improve motor proficiency, particularly in young girls, and physical education teachers need to understand the importance of identifying and improving  FMS, especially in at-risk girls.  At-risk girls would include those from families with a history of obesity.

The researchers pointed to the need for more studies, to identify if developmental delays in FMS in girls and boys are contributors to unhealthy weight gain.

For now, it’s clear that PE in many schools has been cut dramatically or completely removed.  In addition to providing fitness time, the time spent with physical education teachers allows:

Assessment/development of fine motor skills

Kids to learn new sports disciplines

Time to develop social skills, especially during team play time

Time specifically allotted for release of nervous energy.  

This research and the documented findings make it very clear that physical education plays a key role in helping kids and teens to develop a variety of crucial skills.  It appears to be especially important for kids with less optimal skills.

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