The Ups and Downs of Exercise

Early in the decade, exergames, or interactive gaming systems, grew in popularity. A typical program was GoKids Boston, which met for two 90-minute sessions each week and used Dance Dance Revolution, LightSpace, Nintendo Wii, Cybex Trazer, Sportwall, and Xavix products. These programs were generally seen as positive, and a viable alternative to traditional fitness activities. But — and isn’t there always a but? — it was also recorded that “use of exergames by adolescents typically declines within a few weeks or months.”

At the same time, what amounted to an anti-exercise program emerged in some places. For instance, in Edgewater, Florida, a 48-family townhome community considered not only banning all outdoor play, but fining the residents $100 for each separate offense.

The common area had very little green space, and kids rode their bicycles and skateboards in the parking lot, so no more of that, and no games of tag, either. It’s hard not to see the grouchy residents’ side of things. There’s the noise, and nobody wants their car dinged up by a bike crashing into it.

Still, it makes a person wonder, couldn’t there be some kind of concession? Like, one morning a week, let’s all park on this one side of the lot, and allow the kids have their scooter rodeo or whatever? Would that be too much to ask? Maybe they worked it out. There does not seem to be any subsequent news.

Around the same time, Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada, was working on becoming the first “come alive outside” community in North America. The object was “to teach young people the lost art of unstructured play at no cost to the municipality.” The prime movers were the Wentworth Landscaping Group, whose partial plans were described by journalist Nicole Kleinsteuber:

The landscaping group is working on developing a nature trail with fitness equipment near the soccer fields in Picton. The trail would start at Queen Elizabeth Public School, run across the street from PECI, along the top ridge of the Johnson Street soccer field and follow the track within the fairgrounds and the youth park.

Meanwhile, back in the lab

A meta study from researchers at the University of Missouri looked at “various animal models that simulate childhood obesity through inactivity.” This type of experiment uses a thing called the rodent wheel lock model, first allowing rats to have exercise, then shutting off the exercise wheels to see how the rodents’ organ systems are affected:

[S]tudies have shown that young, inactive rats have reduced insulin sensitivity, eat more and burn off fewer calories, and develop larger fat pads than animals who continue to exercise. Other studies show that fat cells multiply to a significantly greater extent in rats who aren’t allowed to run on their wheels…

Human studies have shown a similarity, in that inactive children strongly tend to remain inactive later in life, and that childhood inactivity “initiates the mechanisms that lead to the consequences of obesity seen in adults.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Exergaming Provides Real Exercise for Kids,”, 03/07/11
Source: “Florida HOA says keep your kids inside,”, 04/01/11
Source: “Come Alive Outside strategy teaches kids lost art of unstructured play,”, 06/17/11
Source: “To Understand Childhood Obesity, Researchers Look to Inactive, Fat Rats,”, 07/24/12
Image by Troy Darr/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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