An increased amount of physical exercise can reduce the risk factors of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in children, a new study shows.
The study found that in a two-year follow-up of 258 school-age children between the ages 6-8, sedentary behavior increased the accumulation of risk factors, whereas increasing the amount of vigorous exercise reduced it.
Dr. Juuso Väistö, the first author of the article, from the University of Eastern Finland says the study is “highly significant,” as it is one of the first follow-up studies in the world to reliably show that increasing the amount of vigorous exercise is independently associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in childhood.
The results are based on follow-up data from the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study, ongoing at the University of Eastern Finland.
What Were The Study Findings?
The two-year follow-up study analyzed associations of changes in the amount of vigorous, moderate and light exercise, as well as sedentary behavior, with risk factors of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, such as body fat content, waist circumference, blood insulin, and glucose levels, blood lipids and blood pressure.
The amounts of exercise, as well as sedentary behavior, were objectively measured using the Actiheart® device, which records heart rate and body movement.
Children involved in the study wore the Actiheart® device continuously for a minimum of four days, and the measurement period included weekdays and days of the weekend.
During the two-year follow-up, the overall risk and individual risk factors of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular reduced in children who increased their amount of vigorous exercise. In children whose sedentary behavior increased, the risk increased as well.
These changes were independent of gender, biological maturity, and lean body mass, as well as of the levels of risk factors and physical activity measured at the beginning of the study.
“A physically passive lifestyle is gradually becoming alarmingly widespread among children and young people almost all over the world,” explains Väistö. “Our findings provide support for the role of physical activity in preventing common chronic diseases already in childhood,” he says.
Väistö points out that children and young people should engage in more physical exercise than what it takes to go about their daily activities.
“Our findings show that increasing the amount of vigorous exercise and reducing sedentary behavior are equally important in preventing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” he says.
“According to the latest recommendations, children need diverse physical activity every day, and at least 60 minutes should be vigorous exercise.”
He defines “vigorous exercise” as an exercise that causes shortness of breath and perspiration.
The findings of the study were published in the Scandinavian