Kids and exercise: 7 minutes a day keeps the doctor away

Seven minutes doesn't sound like a long time.

But contrary to what most doctors have conventionally believed, just a few minutes of daily physical activity may be all it takes to keep kids healthy.

The scary part? Most children aren't even getting that.

Go vigorous or go home

Research at the University of Alberta--funded in part by the Canadian Diabetes Association--found that just seven minutes a day is all it takes for children to significantly improve their health and reduce their risk for dangerous conditions like obesity and diabetes. The key, however, is that this physical activity must be vigorous.

After reviewing data on more than 600 children, researchers found that kids spend about 70 percent of their time sitting down, 23 percent engaged in "light" activity, 7 percent doing moderate physical activity and--here's the kicker--only 0.6 percent of their time doing vigorous physical activity. The study also found that boys were slightly more active than girls and that weekends were the time when children were least active.

Intensity is key

Richard Lewanczuk, a researcher with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta, says that kids may not need a lot of physical activity, but the intensity of it certainly matters:

"This research tells us that a brisk walk isn't good enough. Kids have to get out and do a high-intensity activity in addition to maintaining a background of mild to moderate activity. There's a strong correlation between obesity, fitness and activity. Activity and fitness is linked to a reduction in obesity and good health outcomes."

Surprisingly enough, the researchers didn't see health benefits happen when kids upped their levels of moderate activity--even when this activity was consistent. They also found there was no data to back up the theory that children can be overweight and fit--a notion that can sometimes hold true for adults.

Lewanczuk hopes the findings of the study can help schools and daycare programs develop better guidelines for physical education and implement more mandatory physical activity.

Source: Science Daily

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