For children, a little exercise goes a long way toward metabolic health

Kids who stay active doing normal childhood activities can reduce their risk for conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to research from the Appalachian State University Human Performance Laboratory in Kannapolis, N.C.

When compared to children who went about their daily lives as normal, obese kids who participated in a summer camp where they engaged in activities like swimming, running and ping pong lost about 13 to 17 pounds. Both the active and non-active kids ate the same amount of calories each day.

"All of that exercise and weight loss combined to bring most of their risk factors down," said Dr. David Nieman, a professor of health and exercise science in Appalachian's College of Health Sciences. "Their blood pressure went down and insulin sensitivity improved. They were able to handle their glucose better. They had a reduction in total cholesterol. So the overall metabolic health of these children improved in just six weeks."

Organized sports, fitness tests are a win-win

Nieman also conducted research in a separate study that had children engage in various fitness tests that were the same types of physical challenges used to train NASCAR drivers.

Simply having kids perform the tests over a period of one year (once at the beginning of the school year and once at the end) resulted in tests scores that showed a reduction in body fat, better strength and overall improved physical health.

Impact on long-term health

Results of the two studies suggest that organized fitness testing or group sports that are structured within a child's normal day could have a lasting impact on long-term health.

Nieman elaborated:

The scores on all of the tests indicated that obesity at such a young age is already impacting the health and physical well-being of these children. The good news is that most children, when they get properly supervised physical activity, whether it is organized sports or an old fashioned playtime, are very happy to continue it, and they benefit from it in terms of improved health. These types of health benefits can keep them from dealing with major health issues when they are older.

Reuslts of the Nieman's work can be found in the Journal of Sport and Health Science.

Source: Appalachian State University

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