Children 'risking heart disease' by not exercising
Children as young as nine could be putting themselves at risk of developing heart disease in the future by not exercising enough, a study indicates.
Swedish researchers who looked at 223 children whose average age was just under 10, found that those who exercised the least had more body fat and a higher resting pulse rate than those who exercised the most.
Girls in particular could be jeopardising their future health by not exercising sufficiently, they discovered.
While boys averaged 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, girls did only 35. Of that time, boys spent 15 minutes in vigorous exercise but girls only 11.
A team at Skane University Hospital in Malmo, Sweden, also found that girls had a higher proportion of body fat than boys - 22.6pc compared to 16.2pc. However, by another measure of fatness, body mass index (BMI), there was no real difference.
Nonetheless, the girls had a higher average resting heart rate than the boys, 85 compared to 80.
Dr Tina Tanha, who led the study, published in the journal Acta Paediatrica, emphasised their research could not determine how much these differences were down to gender or exercise.
But she said it did provide a warning to parents of children who did insufficient exercise.
She said: "It is well known that physical inactivity in adults is associated with a wide range of diseases and all causes of death.
"We believe that our study now demonstrates a clear clinical association between physical inactivity and multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors in children."
This did not mean the children had heart disease, she clarified, merely that some of them exhibited risk factors associated with its development in adults.
Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, commented: "Heart and circulatory disease is something that affects adults, not children, so it’s difficult to predict the risk of a child developing this later in life.
“However, the benefits of being physically active at any age are well established with studies showing it can prevent children from developing diseases later on in life, as well as improving their concentration at school, their overall mental health and wellbeing.
“This study reinforces the need to incorporate the recommended target of 60 minutes’ physical activity into children’s daily lives.”