Sports Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 533–545 | Cite as

The Contribution of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviours to the Growth and Development of Children and Adolescents

Implications for Overweight and Obesity
  • Andrew P. Hills
  • Neil A. KingEmail author
  • Timothy P. Armstrong
Review Article


The obesity epidemic is a global trend and is of particular concern in children. Recent reports have highlighted the severity of obesity in children by suggesting: “today’s generation of children will be the first for over a century for whom life expectancy falls.” This review assesses the evidence that identifies the important role of physical activity in the growth, development and physical health of young people, owing to its numerous physical and psychological health benefits. Key issues, such as “does a sedentary lifestyle automatically lead to obesity” and “are levels of physical activity in today’s children less than physical activity levels in children from previous generations?”, are also discussed.

Today’s environment enforces an inactive lifestyle that is likely to contribute to a positive energy balance and childhood obesity. Whether a child or adolescent, the evidence is conclusive that physical activity is conducive to a healthy lifestyle and prevention of disease. Habitual physical activity established during the early years may provide the greatest likelihood of impact on mortality and longevity. It is evident that environmental factors need to change if physical activity strategies are to have a significant impact on increasing habitual physical activity levels in children and adolescents. There is also a need for more evidence-based physical activity guidelines for children of all ages. Efforts should be concentrated on facilitating an active lifestyle for children in an attempt to put a stop to the increasing prevalence of obese children.


Physical Activity Sedentary Behaviour Physical Activity Level Regular Physical Activity Sedentary Lifestyle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew P. Hills
    • 1
  • Neil A. King
    • 1
    • 2
  • Timothy P. Armstrong
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Human Movement Studies, Institute of Health & Biomedical InnovationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Biopsychology Group, Institute of Psychological SciencesUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  3. 3.Department of Chronic Diseases & Health Promotion, Surveillance and Population-Based Primary Prevention of Chronic DiseasesWorld Health OrganizationGenevaSwitzerland

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