New guidelines highlight the amount of exercise under tens should take to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) later in life. Sixty to 85 minutes of physical activity is recommended per day, including 20 minutes of vigorous activity, reports a study published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, paving the way for a generation of adults prone to ill health and CVD. Exercise is well known to reduce the risk of CVD, but current guidelines for children are based on youngsters over ten years old, and it's unclear what would most benefit younger children.
Jiménez-Pavón and colleagues are the first to look at the link between physical activity and CVD risk in children 9 years and younger as part of the IDEFICS Study. They calculated their risk of CVD by looking at factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels and skinfold thickness, and found that around 15% of the 3000 or so 2 -- 9 year old European kids studied had adverse CVD risk profiles. Unhealthy profiles were even spotted in very young children, aged 2 to 6 years old, and differed between the sexes. The team recommend gender- and age-specific guidelines to help counter these unhealthy profiles. Boys under 6 years old need over 70 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day, whereas boys aged 6 to 9, need over 80 minutes. Girls in either age group need around the 60 minutes suggested in the previous guidelines.
The findings refine the previous more generalised guidelines for children, which estimated that kids require around an hour of daily moderate-to-vigorous exercise to improve health. They also highlight the inappropriateness of a 'one recommendation to fit all' policy for youngsters -- there are children who meet the previous guidelines yet still have unhealthy CVD profiles. In a linked commentary also published in BMC Medicine, Robert McMurray highlights that when clinicians recommend physical activity for children they should evaluate at-risk kids on a case-by-case basis rather than by using generalised guidelines.
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