Light physical activity could be enough to fight childhood obesity

Light physical activity could be enough to fight childhood obesity

To reduce obesity, moderate to vigorous physical activity would be less effective than light physical activity. This is the surprising finding of a new international study carried out among more than 6,000 children aged 11, and followed up to 24 years, revealing that gentle but regular activities, such as a long walk, swimming, chores household chores, or even cycling, could help prevent obesity linked to a sedentary lifestyle from childhood.

Nearly three children aged 7 to 9 are overweight and/or obese in the European region of the World Health Organization (WHO), according to findings made public by the health authority. At the same time, in a report dated 2019, it estimates that more than 80% of adolescents in school do not respect the recommendations in terms of physical activity (at least one hour daily) on a global scale, warning of the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. An alarming observation that was investigated by a team of international researchers, who set out to evaluate the association between physical activity and fat mass index.

A clear increase in sedentary lifestyle

This large-scale work was jointly carried out by the University of Exeter (England), the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Bristol (England), and the University of Colorado (United States). United), based on data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). A total of 6,059 children aged 11 were included in this research, which extended until their 24th birthday. A period during which participants wore an accelerometer on their waist to measure their sedentary lifestyle, light and moderate to vigorous physical activity, at the ages of 11, 15 and 24 years. At the same time, the researchers collected data on their fat mass and their skeletal muscle mass, as well as fasting blood samples to assess their glucose, insulin, and cholesterol.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the results of this work initially show that sedentary lifestyle increased during the study, going from around 6 hours per day in childhood to 9 hours among young adults, while the time spent on light physical activity decreased from 6 to 3 hours daily. Only moderate to vigorous activity remained stable. Researchers observed a link between a sedentary lifestyle and an increase in total body fat, of the order of 1.3 grams for each minute of sedentary lifestyle. Among the fat mass acquired during the participants’ growth, 7 to 10% could be linked to a sedentary lifestyle.

NO to diets, YES to WW!

“The antidote to the catastrophic effect of a sedentary lifestyle”

Conversely, light physical activity was associated with a reduction in total body fat, of the order of 3.6 grams for each minute of exercise. Overall, light physical activity could have reduced body fat from 950 grams to 1.5 kilograms as the participants grew. A result which was not observed with moderate to vigorous physical activity, including the famous WHO recommendations, since it only made it possible to reduce the total fat mass ‘only’ from 70 to 170 grams at course of growth of children.

These new findings strongly underline that light physical activity may be an unsung hero in preventing body fat obesity early in life. It is high time the world replaced the mantra ’60 minutes per day on average of moderate to vigorous physical activity’ with ‘at least 3 hours per day of light physical activity’. Light physical activity appears to be the antidote to the catastrophic effect of a sedentary lifestyle among young people“, explains Dr Andrew Agbaje, one of the co-authors of this work, in a press release.

And to conclude: “Our study provides new information that may be useful for updating future health guidelines and policy statements. Public health experts, policymakers, health journalists and bloggers, pediatricians and parents should encourage continued, sustained light physical activity to prevent childhood obesity.“.

Nearly 2 billion adults were overweight, including more than 650 million obese people, in 2016, according to data published by the WHO. The health authority then recalled that an increase in body mass index increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, and certain cancers.