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Eating breakfast every day increases physical activity among girls

Girls were more active when they ate breakfast daily as part of a study into whether breakfast frequency affects physical activity.

Researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Bedfordshire conducted the research among 27 adolescent girls who ate a standard breakfast on seven consecutive days.

The same girls then ate breakfast on three days alternating with four days of eating no breakfast over another seven-day period.

The results showed that the girls were more active in the morning and after school, and less idle after school, when breakfast was eaten daily than when it was eaten intermittently over the seven-day periods.

The findings were outlined in the paper, Physical activity duration but not energy expenditure differs between daily and intermittent breakfast consumption in adolescent girls: a randomized crossover trial, published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Dr Julia Zakrzewski-Fruer, Lecturer in Health, Nutrition and Exercise, at Bedfordshire, said: “There is some evidence that higher overweight and obesity levels in adolescents who skip breakfast may be partly due to lower physical activity levels.

“It is an issue particularly pertinent to teenage girls as both the frequency of breakfast consumption and physical activity levels decline markedly in girls between childhood and adolescence.

“Our results showed that the adolescent girls spent more time in light intensity physical activity in the morning before 10:30am and after school and spent less time sedentary after school when they ate breakfast daily rather than intermittently.

“This increase in physical activity, however, was not large enough to result in a higher expenditure, or ‘calorie burn’, from physical activity during daily breakfast consumption.

“We need to carry out longer trials to examine the possible role of physical activity in contributing to lower body weight and fat levels in girls who eat breakfast frequently.

“Nevertheless, the findings do suggest that daily breakfast might help to increase the effectiveness of physical activity promotion practices among adolescent girls.”

Dr Keith Tolfrey, a Reader in Paediatric Exercise Physiology, from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said: “The publication of these important findings takes us another step closer to unravelling the possible complex connection between breakfast meal consumption and other health behaviours and measures in this special population.

“It is possible differences in estimated energy expenditure were not found between the breakfast consumption and intermittent-skipping weeks of the study because the typical school day restricts opportunities to be more physically active.

“However, the higher levels of light intensity physical activity after breakfast consumption are very exciting as this often accounts for the largest proportion of activity in adolescents and is increasingly considered to be the most viable target for converting sedentary behaviour into activity to enhance well-being.”

The study follows another research paper by Dr Zakrzewski-Fruer and Dr Tolfrey on breakfast omission or consumption and dietary intakes among adolescent girls.