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Weight gain in girls blamed on drop in exercise

Adolescent girls in the United States are putting on weight because they are doing less physical activity than they did as children, according to a study.
/ Source: Reuters

Adolescent girls in the United States are putting on weight because they are doing less physical activity than they did as children, according to a study released on Friday.

Research by scientists at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque showed that increasing exercise to the equivalent of 2-5 hours of brisk walking each week could help to prevent girls from gaining 9-20 pounds during their teens.

“Preventing the steep decline in activity during adolescence is an important method to reduce obesity,” Sue Kimm, the lead researcher, said in a study published online by The Lancet medical journal.

Over 9 million young people in the United States aged 6-19, or 16 percent, are considered overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity is by measured by body mass index (BMI). A BMI of more than 25 is considered overweight. More than 30 is obese.

Kimm and her team studied the BMI and changes in physical activity in more than 2,200 girls from three U.S. cities who were followed from the ages of 9 to 19. They also measured their skin folds, which is another indication of being overweight and obese.

The girls filled in a questionnaire about their physical activity and eating habits.

Although what they ate did not change, the researchers said there was a doubling in the rate of excess weight and obesity in girls who had a pronounced decline in physical activity during the transition from childhood to adolescence.

“Black girls were significantly heavier and fatter than white girls throughout adolescence, with increasing racial differences with age,” Kimm said in the journal.

In the study about 32 percent of white girls kept up their childhood level of physical activity in adolescence, compared to 11 percent of the black girls.

“In view of the global obesity epidemic, maintenance of modest amounts of activity during adolescence could be a method for primary prevention of obesity development and adult-onset chronic diseases,” Kim added.

Obesity increases the risk of other illnesses including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.