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Acta Physiologica Hungarica
Authors:
A. Prókai
,
J. Mészáros
,
Zs. Mészáros
,
A. Photiou
,
I. Vajda
, and
Á. Sziva

Increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity is a serious social and health problem both in the economically developed and developing countries. Despite this fact the nation-wide growth studies completed in Hungary during the past 30 years had not categorised the children either by body fat content or nutritional status. The aim of the study was to estimate the prevalence of overweight and obese boys in the country at the beginning of the new millennium.Height, body mass and four skinfold thicknesses were measured in 7173 volunteer boys aged between 7 and 10 and living in various urban and rural settlements of Hungary between 2003 and 2005. Nutritional status was qualified by the BMI and relative body fat content. The significantly increasing prevalence with age of overweight and obesity ranged between 10.3 and 23.4%. The results showed the joint effects of a secular trend of growth and of a remarkably changed lifestyle. Of these the consequences of the lifestyle are the more important ones. The high and possibly further increasing prevalence of child-age overweight and obesity reminds one of the observations of Kopp and associates (5), namely that of the increased prevalence of chronic childhood diseases during the past 15 years. More intense habitual physical activity and dramatic changes in dietary habits still promise some solution. No one should reckon, however, with the efficiency of physical education at the schools with its very few classes.

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The prevalence of overweight or fat children and adolescents has markedly increased in Hungary during the past three decades. Among the possible factors insufficient physical activity and a relative or absolute excess of calorie intake associated to it can be regarded as the most important ones. The aim of the study was to analyse the effects of a 20-week aerobic exercise on body composition and on the exercise tested cardio-respiratory functions in 10-year-old obese boys. Obesity was defined by a BMI greater than the cut-off value reported by Cole and co-workers (5) and a relative body fat content above 30% (13). Of the study group 21 volunteer children completed the program; the contrast group contained 28 obese boys. Mean calendar age was 10.03±0.26 in the study group (S) and 9.88±0.29 in the control group (C). The members of group S had two curricular physical education (PE) classes a week and three extracurricular aerobic physical activity sessions of 60 min net time in the afternoon, on Mondays (swimming and water games), Wednesdays (folk dance) and Fridays (soccer). Group C had only 2 PE classes a week. Anthropometric and spiroergometric data were collected in the middle of January and June of 2004. Relative body fat content and BMI did not increase during the observation period in contrast to the significant increase of both in the control group. Peak minute ventilation, aerobic power, oxygen pulse, and running distance (performed on a treadmill) increased in group S, and did not change in group C.The program was considered successful despite that the changes in the observed physiological and physical indicators appeared to be slight. However, the 5-month elevated level of physical activity brought about such development in the physical status of the obese subjects that might be an appropriate basis for regular training. Fortunately, the cardio-respiratory functions of the investigated boys were not affected yet by obesity, consequently the really dramatic change in their further lifestyle exclusively depends on their decision.

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Long-range repeated-measure sample differences in body dimensions, body composition and physical performance help to describe the changes in a population’s lifestyle. The aim of our study was to analyse such changes in longitudinal studies repeated after a 25-year interval. Data collections repeated every six months for the periods 1977–1981 (n=152) and 2002–2006 (n=158) were carried out in nonathletic boys aged between 6.51 and 11.50 years from the same districts of Budapest. Means for height, body mass, BMI, body fat percentage, and distance covered during a running endurance test, as well as the slopes of the changes were compared. The children of the second series of studies were significantly taller and heavier, had more depot fat and showed poorer cardio-respiratory endurance than their peers 25 years before. The increases with age in weight, BMI and depot fat were steeper in the second series. The significant differences that developed in anthropometric traits and physical performance during these 25 years are regarded as indirect evidence for how severely the average physical condition had declined, as well as how health risks of the schoolchildren had increased.

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