To investigate, researchers reviewed data on more than 1000 sixth graders in Michigan.
They found that 58 percent of obese children had watched two hours of TV in the previous day, compared to 41 percent of non-obese children. Forty-five percent of obese students always ate school lunch, instead of packing a lunch from home, whereas only 34 percent of non-obese students ate school lunch.
Researchers also found that significantly fewer obese kids exercised regularly, took physical education classes, or were a member of a sports team.
Because the eating and exercise patterns of obese children were so different than their normal weight peers, researchers concluded that lifestyle was more closely linked with childhood obesity, than genetics.
Researchers also report that 15 percent of the middle school students studied were obese, but nearly all, whether overweight or not, reported unhealthy habits. More than 30 percent of students had consumed regular soda the previous day, and less than half remembered eating two portions of fruits and vegetables within the past 24 hours. Only one-third of students said they exercised for 30 minutes for five days in the previous week.
Based on their findings, researchers note that it's clear that opportunities to improve health abound for the majority of the students, not just the 15 percent who are already obese.
The findings were reported in the American Heart Journal.
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