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This study aimed to compare motor competence and executive functioning (EF) between children with obesity and peers with healthy weight. Additionally, the predictive value of motor competence and EF in weight loss after a 5-month multidisciplinary residential treatment program was examined.
Thirty-two children with obesity (7–11 years, 14 boys) and 32 age-matched controls (18 boys) performed 8 motor skill tasks and 4 tasks of EF (only at baseline). In the group of children with obesity, anthropometric measurements were performed at baseline and 5 months after the start of their treatment program. Also in control children, there was a time span of 5 months in between anthropometric measurements.
Lower levels of motor competence and reduced updating abilities, inhibition control, and planning skills were observed in children with obesity compared with healthy-weight controls. Within the total group, better general motor competence and balance skills were significantly associated with better updating, inhibition control, and planning. Finally, hierarchical regression analyses revealed that ball skills, balance skills, and inhibition/updating at baseline predicted 14% to 17% of the variance in weight loss after a 5-month treatment program in children with obesity.
These results suggest that motor competence and EF are both relevant factors associated with childhood obesity. Moreover, these factors seem to be significant predictors of weight loss. Future (intervention) studies are needed to understand the impact of the difficulties in motor and EF on obesity-related behaviors as well as on short-term and, especially, longterm weight loss and maintenance.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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