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Poor Motor Skills are Correlated with Higher Levels of Obesity

Correlation between poor motor skills and obesity:

People with poor motor skills tend to lead inactive-overweight lives. Clark (1995) explains that motor skill development is a life-long process and can be viewed through three broad perspectives; the neuro-maturational perspective which explains motor sequences are developed as the central nervous system matures, the information processing perspective which states that motor skills are stored as programs and can be stored and accessed similar to a computer, and the dynamic systems perspectives in which motor skill development is dependent on constraints, self-organization, patterns, and stability. Like most things, motor skill acquisition probably has a basis in all three theories. Since certain motor skills tend to be learned in developmental milestones (people rarely walk before they can crawl), I put slightly more weight behind the neuro-maturational perspective (Gerber, Wilks, & Erdie-Lalena, 2010). If a child has trouble learning basic motor skills due to an inactive lifestyle, they will be delayed in learning and mastering more advanced skills.

There is a definite correlation between obesity and having poor motor skills. Khalaj and Amri (2013), administered the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD) on 40 obese kindergartners and 40 non-obese kindergartners. The TGMD measures six locomotor skills (running, hopping, galloping, leaping, jumping, and sliding) and six object control skills (striking a ball, dribbling, catching, kicking, throwing overhand, and rolling a ball underhand) (Khalaj and Amri). Unsurprisingly, the normal weight children scored much higher on average on the TGMD than the obese children did.

Unfortunately obese people do not catch up with their non-obese peers as they age as far as motor skill performance is concerned. In a measure of performance of fine motor skills using a pegboard obese adults performed far worse than their healthy weight peers (Cavuoto & Nussbaum, 2014). Furthermore, obesity was a greater factor than old age in skillful performance involving a pegboard (Cavuto & Nussbaum).

Since motor skills are age dependent and rely on reaching milestones, like normal walking at 14 months, it can be theorized that inactive people are less likely to achieve the necessary practice to become skilled movers (Gerber, Wilks, & Erdie-Lalena, 2010). This is a shame because these skills are cemented early and become more difficult to learn as one gets older. A person is unlikely to try something that they feel they will be unsuccessful at, leading to a life-cycle of inactivity and obesity.


Cavuoto, L. A., & Nussbaum, M. A. (2014). The influences of obesity and age on functional performance during intermittent upper extremity tasks. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 11(9), 583-590. cavuto and nussbaum, 2014.pdf

Clark, J. E. (1995). On becoming skillful: Patterns and constraints. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 66(3), 173-183.

Gerber, R. J., Wilks, T., & Erdie-Lalena, C. (2010). Developmental milestones: Motor development. Pediatrics in Review, 31(7), 267-277.

Khalaj, N., & Amri, S. (2013). Mastery of gross motor skills in preschool and early elementary school obese children. Ovidius University Annals, Series Physical Education & Sport/Science, Movement & Health, 13, 656-661.

Prskalo, I., Badric, M., & Kunjesic, M. (2015). The percentage of body fat in children and the level of their motor skills. Collegium Antropologicum, 39, 121-128.