Exercise, diet improve obese kids' motor skills

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NEW YORK, Nov 1 (Reuters) Obese children who lose weight through diet and exercise may become stronger and more agile in the process, a study shows.

German researchers found that a programme that focused on physical activity and diet education was able to not just help obese children shed pounds, but to also improve their endurance, strength, balance and coordination.

Their findings point to the importance of exercise in battling childhood obesity, according to the researchers, led by Dr Ulrike Korsten-Reck of the University of Freiburg.

Childhood obesity is on the rise worldwide and it's thought that a major cause is the demise of physical activity. Fewer children are outdoors riding bikes and playing games, in favor of sitting in front of the TV or computer.

The new study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, evaluated an obesity treatment program that combined regular exercise with nutrition education and psychological counseling.

Korsten-Reck's team followed 49 obese children ages 8 to 12 who participated in the 8-month program. As part of their treatment, the children attended three hour-long exercise classes each week, which involved playing games, swimming, and performing exercises aimed at building their strength, flexibility and coordination.

After 8 months, the researchers found, the children showed an overall improvement in all movement skills tested, including aerobic fitness, balance and coordination.

Improving overweight children's motor skills is important, according to the researchers, because heavy kids often feel too intimidated to participate in sports and other types of exercise.

This only exacerbates their weight problems, as well as their self-esteem.

The current findings highlight the benefits of getting overweight children into exercise classes, and encouraging them to be active in their everyday life, Korsten-Reck told Reuters Health.

It's also important for parents to be physically active as well, the researcher noted, so that their children can learn good health habits by example.

REUTERS PD AS1004

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