Coronavirus Chronicles — The Eat Less, Move More Dilemma

These are troubled times. In many parts of the USA, hunger is a problem. Other segments of the population are able to get plenty to eat, and then proceed to eat plenty of it. For people who always found it difficult to “eat less,” life is more problematic than ever. The “move more” part of the old equation is also disrupted.

A previous Childhood Obesity News post mentioned Alasdair Wilkins, who published a book about the massive weight loss he achieved by setting a treadmill to “uphill.” He walked on it one hour per day while watching movies. The arguments against the evil of “screen time” seldom mention such a positive use, and what is more, a use that could easily be adapted for the benefit of children who are interested in burning off some caloric energy.

But even in the best of times, it is unlikely that a child would have a setup like that at home, or even accessible anywhere in the neighborhood or at school. The lack of every kind of activity-promoting facility, at this juncture of history, is very unfortunate. Experts continue to point out that obesity and COVID-19 are quite compatible and friendly to each other’s interests. The precautions that the public is asked to take, like staying home and closing gyms, and not going to school, are all inimical to the “move more” imperative. There is no way that kids can get enough fat-burning movement into their lives.

Do we really need to move more?

In the past decade, the reputation of exercise has risen and fallen, especially with regard to the school system. First of all, there is, as journalist Kevin Vaughan phrased it, “the philosophical question of who is responsible for making sure kids lead healthy lives — parents or schools?” In any adequate society, the answer, of course, should be “both.” Schools have been blamed for not trying harder. But then, a report like this one comes along.

Several years ago, British journalist Francesca Infante published a quotation from John Ashton, professor and highly placed government health official, who said,

One of the things we should be doing is really strictly prohibiting cars stopping outside school to drop kids off but having drop-off points, if at all, a few hundred yards away so at least the children get to walk a quarter of a mile each day form the dropping off point… [I]t would make a difference.

This modest proposal was regarded by many in the United Kingdom as intolerably radical. Meanwhile, in the USA, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program was gaining traction. Also in the USA, an increasing number of researchers suggested that maybe exercise doesn’t even help to achieve weight loss.

Childhood Obesity News will take a closer look at how the “move more” concept has been both amplified and scorned over the past few years. The painful irony is that, no matter how many people may have become exercise believers, almost everyone is currently deprived of the opportunity to get the exercise they want.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How Did Alasdair Wilkins Lose 100 lbs in a Year?,”, 10/5/15
Source: “School Exercise: Watered-down 2011 law lacks impact,”, 06/24/13
Source: “‘Ban school run and make pupils walk,”, 07/02/13
Image by Ronald Saunders/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

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.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


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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