U. IOWA (US)—Children should be encouraged to be active, even as young as 5 years old, because they grow up to be leaner and healthier later in life, according to a new study.
“We call this effect ‘banking’ because the kids benefit later on, similar to having a savings account at a bank, explains lead author Kathleen Janz, professor of health and sports studies at the University of Iowa. “The implication is that even 5-year-olds should be encouraged to be as active as possible because it pays off as they grow older.”
Researchers tested the body fat and activity level of 333 kids at ages 5, 8, and 11 using a scanner that accurately measures bone, fat, and muscle tissue, and an accelerometer that measures movement every minute. The children wore accelerometers to record their activity level for up to five days, providing much more reliable data than relying on kids or parents to track minutes of exercise.
The study, published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, indicates that kids who are active at age 5 end up with less fat at age 8 and 11, even when controlling for their accumulated level of activity. The average 5-year-old in the study got 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. For every 10 minutes on top of that, children had one-third of a pound less fat tissue at ages 8 and 11.
“The CDC recommends that kids get at least 60 minutes of age-appropriate physical activity every day,” Janz says. “And coloring madly won’t cut it.”
Measuring a child’s level of activity can be difficult, Janz says, because they exert themselves in short bursts—like sprinting after a ball—rather than continuous activities an adult might do, like jogging. But there are steps a parent can take to ensure their children are getting appropriate levels of exercise to remain healthy.
Parents should make sure their children avoid long periods of sedentary activity, insist schools offer both morning and afternoon recess, and whenever possible, get kids outside.
“In the end, it doesn’t take that much extra physical activity to see a measurable outcome. Even 10 extra minutes a day makes a difference in protecting against excessive fat gains.”
University of Iowa: http://news.uiowa.edu