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Activity may not be key to obesity - claim

Wednesday May 26th, 2010

Getting overweight people to be physically active will not be enough to improve their health, experts claimed today.

Writing on the website of the British Medical Journal, Dr Timothy Gill of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues state that health policy should not focus solely on physical inactivity.

"On its own, improving physical activity will have little impact on reducing overall levels of already established obesity," they write.

They believe that strategy to raise physical activity alone "is unlikely to bring overall improvements in health". "Any approach that overlooks the profound influence of diet on health and risk of chronic disease (including those that are independent of obesity) is likely to be counterproductive," they write.

Instead, "A focus on reducing obesity through a broad range of actions is likely to be more effective in preventing chronic disease and produce larger population health gains. A broad portfolio of strategies is required.

"Such initiatives require greater attention to the pervasive structural, economic, and social factors that influence our ability to change behaviours favourably."

On the other hand, Dr Richard Weiler of Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK, and colleagues support a strong focus on physical activity, as it has benefits beyond losing weight.

They write: "Physical inactivity is one of the greatest health threats facing developed nations today." The benefits of tackling it "easily surpass the effectiveness of any drugs or other medical treatment".

But ninety-five per cent of people in England and the US do not meet the recommended weekly targets, they say.

"If health policy, modern medicine, and health care professionals focus on fighting physical inactivity we will no longer need to concentrate on the negative societal stigma of obesity," they state.

Gill, T. P., Baur, L. A. and king, L. A. Should health policy focus on physical inactivity rather than obesity? No. The British Medical Journal, 2010;340:c2602.

Weiler, R., Stamatakis, E. and Blair, S. Should health policy focus on physical activity rather than obesity? Yes. The British Medical Journal, 2010;340:c2603.

Tags: Australia | Diet & Food | Fitness | UK News

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