Even light physical activity can prevent overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. This finding is particularly important as more and more children and adolescents are affected by obesity due to lifestyles that involve spending a lot of time sitting.
A new study involving experts from the University of Eastern Finland examined the relationship between time spent sitting, light physical activity, moderate to vigorous physical activity and the amount of fat present. The results are published in the journal “Nature Communications”.
Data from more than 6,000 children analyzed
The team used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children for the new research. This included a total of 6,059 children who were medically monitored from the age of eleven to the age of 24.
How was physical activity determined?
Waist-worn accelerometers were used to measure time spent sitting, time in light physical activity, and time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for participants aged 11, 15, and 24 years.
At the same age, fat mass, skeletal muscle mass as well as glucose, insulin, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and the levels of the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein were also measured, the team reports.
In addition, blood pressure, heart rate, socioeconomic status and family history of cardiovascular diseases were determined and taken into account in the subsequent analyses, the experts continued. Whether the participants smoked was also taken into account.
Increase in fat mass
On average, participants gained ten kilograms of fat mass from childhood to young adulthood, with light physical activity reducing the increase in fat mass up to ten times more effectively than moderate to vigorous physical activity, the research team reports.
Light physical activity therefore plays an important role in preventing obesity from childhood onwards, explains study author Dr. Andrew Agbaje in a press release.
The results show that light physical activity could be the antidote to the disastrous effects of the sedentary lifestyle that is widespread among children and young people, the doctor adds.
Children don’t move enough
According to researchers, more than 80 percent of children and adolescents worldwide do not adhere to the average physical activity of 60 minutes per day recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition, the new study suggests that the guidelines should recommend that children and adolescents do at least three hours of light physical activity a day instead of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.
Health consequences of obesity
Lack of exercise and spending too much time sitting are linked to an increased risk of obesity in childhood and adolescence, and lack of exercise is expected to cause up to 500 million additional cases of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases by 2030, they explain professionals. This makes it clear how urgently effective methods for preventing obesity are needed. (as)