Published on 18 October 2018

Daily hour of physical activity recommended for primary school age children to protect against type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Researchers are calling for children of primary school age to get an hour of vigorous exercise every day – as study finds more young people have an inactive lifestyle.

Taking part in more physical activity routines can help young people protect themselves from developing type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

A two-year study by researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the University of Copenhagen found that while sedentary behaviour increased the risk factors for health conditions like type 2 diabetes, increasing the amount of vigorous exercise reduced it.

Researchers used a device that records heart rate and body movement to monitor children continuously for a minimum of four days, including weekdays and weekend.

The findings of the study, recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, are among the first 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 ordinary primary school children.

Juuso Väistö, researcher and study author, from the University of Eastern Finland, said: “A physically passive lifestyle is gradually becoming alarmingly widespread among children and young people almost all over the world. Our findings provide support for the role of physical activity in preventing common chronic diseases already in childhood.

“Our findings show that increasing the amount of vigorous exercise and reducing sedentary behaviour are equally important in preventing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to latest recommendations, children need diverse physical activity every day, and at least 60 minutes should be vigorous exercise. In practice, vigorous exercise refers to exercise or games that cause shortness of breath and perspiration.”

Researchers looked at the different effect of changes in the amount of vigorous, moderate and light exercise, in addition to sedentary behaviour, with risk factors of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, such as body fat content, waist circumference, blood insulin and glucose levels, blood lipids and blood pressure. The measured changes were independent of gender, biological maturity and lean body mass and of the levels of risk factors and physical activity measured at the beginning of the study.

The results of the study were based on follow-up data from the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study, ongoing at the University of Eastern Finland following a large group of children from pregnancy until adolescence.

Read the report in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
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