The need for research
In adults, lack of regular exercise and being unfit is a major cause of chronic degenerative disease. This is quite independent of obesity. In fact, the majority of epidemiological evidence strongly suggests that being classified as overweight has little effect on mortality risk provided one is sufficiently active. On the other hand, an inactive lifestyle, even in lean individuals, certainly increases risk of chronic disease. Now, amid our 21st century lifestyle we have evidence that many of our primary school aged children (ages 6-12) are insufficiently active for optimal health and development. The Lifestyle of our Kids (LOOK) project investigates the physical and psychological health risks of physical inactivity, independently of obesity, and at the same time investigates risks associated with increased body fat, independent of physical activity.
Longitudinal research design
The LOOK study has four main phases: (1) the completed Primary School Phase (age 8 to 12 years), (2) the completed Adolescent Phase (3) the Young Adult Phase and (4) the Middle and Old Age Phase. Our study group is 850 boys and girls who we studied longitudinally from ages 8 through to 12 years, and who we will study into later life.
The aim of the Primary School phase was to investigate relationships between (a) physical activity in general, and (b) an externally provided specialist physical education program in schools, on physiological and psychological health and development in young children. We also investigated the influence of physical education on academic achievement and the role of the family and environment in creating opportunities for physical activity. Although measurements for the Primary school phase have been completed there is still ongoing work examining these research questions.