ENGAGING in less than 10 minutes of vigorous exercise as part of daily physical activity appears to provide increased heart-protective health benefits in children and teens, a Canadian study suggests.
Bouts of high-intensity physical activity such as running, swimming or playing soccer are superior to longer periods of light and moderate exercise in reducing the risk factors for future cardiovascular disease.
The findings were published online Monday by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. In the study of 605 Alberta schoolchildren, ages nine to 17, researchers found seven minutes a day of intense physical activity was associated with significant reductions in body weight and blood pressure levels as well as increased fitness.
When it came to waist circumference, participants who did the highest amount of vigorous exercise each day pared their midsections by seven centimetres on average. Overweight subjects in that group reduced their waistlines five centimetres.
"That is a huge difference," said principal researcher Jonathan McGavock, an exercise physiologist at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health.
"If we look at physical activity as the magic bullet or drug that is going to have health benefits, such as reducing the risk of overweight or reducing the risk of high blood pressure, a higher intensity is like taking a higher dose of that drug," he said Monday from Winnipeg.
"It says that the more intense the exercise is, the less likely (youth) are to be overweight or to have high blood pressure, compared to (those doing) lower-intensity exercise."
The cross-sectional study included 248 boys and 357 girls, about a quarter of whom were overweight or obese. Canada's physical activity guidelines recommend that children ages five to 17 need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily.
-- The Canadian Press