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Overweight and obese teenagers: why is adolescence a critical period?


Address for correspondence: Dr GP Kenny, School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, 125 University, Montpetit Hall, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6N5, Canada. E-mail:


This paper discusses the critical period of adolescence and its potential role in the development and persistence of obesity. The adolescent years are characteristic of changes in body composition (location and quantity of body fat), physical fitness and decreased insulin sensitivity during puberty. This period of growth and maturation is also marked with behavioural changes in diet, physical activity, sedentary behaviour and psychological health. Physical activity and sport participation decline during adolescence especially in teenage girls, while sedentary behaviour, risk for depression and body esteem issues increase during the teenage years. These physiological and behavioural changes during adolescence warrant the attention of health practitioners to prevent the onset and continuation of obesity throughout the lifespan.