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Kids should move to avoid obesity

Vigorous exercise may be an especially good way to keep kids lean, but sitting around, in and of itself, doesn't appear to have a major role in making them fat.

Kids should move to avoid obesity

Vigorous exercise may be an especially good way to keep kids lean, but sitting around, in and of itself, doesn't appear to have a major role in making them fat. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of reasons to avoid too much sedentary screen time given potential negatives including violence and aggressive behaviour, poor academic performance, and poor body image.

To help tease out the role of time spent in different types of activity in making children fat, independent of screen time and otherwise being a couch potato, researchers looked at 1,862 children in UK 9 to 10 years old, 23 percent of whom were overweight or obese. Using a wristwatch-like device to measure the amount and intensity of activity children got throughout the day, the researchers looked for associations between this activity and children's waist size, amount of body fat, and body mass index (BMI). Kids also reported how much time they spent watching TV or using a computer.

It was found that sixty-nine percent of the children were getting at least an hour of moderate physical activity a day, while 58 percent reported having less than two hours of screen time daily. While children who spent more time not moving had bigger waists and a larger percentage of body fat, much of this relationship could be attributed to the fact that they spent less time engaging in moderate physical activity. But the time children spent engaging in vigorous activity, and their combined moderate activity-vigorous activity time, had the strongest ties to waist circumference and fat mass.

For instance, every 6.5 minutes a child spent doing vigorous activity like playing ball, bicycling, or running around outside was associated with a 1.32-centimeter reduction in waist size. But 13.6 minutes of moderate physical activity only reduced waist size by half a centimeter.

Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that children should still be encouraged to limit their sedentary time, but this alone won't be enough to tackle childhood obesity. Interventions may therefore need to incorporate higher intensity-based activities to curb the growing obesity epidemic.
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