Child obesity is frequently associated with dysfunction of autonomic nervous system. Children in pubertal development were suggested to be vulnerable to autonomic nervous system problems such as decrease of heart rate variability from dysregulation of metabolic control. This study explored the influence of pubertal development on autonomic nervous system function in overweight and obese children and the concurrent effects of their physical activity. Eighty-four overweight or obese children and 87 normal weighted controls were recruited. Autonomic nervous system function was studied by measuring heart rate variability. Results showed that the overweight/obese children had significantly lower heart rate variability. Overweight/obese children in puberty had significantly lower heart rate variability which was positively correlated with their physical activity levels. In conclusion, overweight/obesity adversely affects the autonomic nervous system function of children especially during their pubertal development. Overweight/obese children should be encouraged to engage in physical activities during puberty to improve their autonomic nervous system function.
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