A little vigorous exercise may help boost kids' cardio metabolic health

As little as 10 minutes a day of high-intensity physical activity could help some children reduce their risk of developing heart problems and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, according to an international study.

New findings showed that replacing light-intensity physical activity with brief periods of vigorous exercise may provide significant cardio metabolic benefits in young people with relatively large waist measurements and elevated levels of insulin in their blood.

The study, conducted at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, analyzed data from more than 11,000 kids between ages four and 18, who were included in 11 international studies in the US, Brazil and European countries.

The researchers focused on records that included the child's age, gender, level of physical activity and at least one biomarker, a measurable indicator of a medical state or condition, of cardio metabolic risk.

Such indicators included weight circumference, blood pressure, and bloodstream levels of 'good' cholesterol, 'bad' cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and insulin.

"The results suggest that substituting modest amounts of vigorous physical activity for longer duration light exercise may have cardio metabolic benefits above and beyond those conveyed by moderate activity and the avoidance of sedentary behaviour," said lead author Justin B. Moore, Associate Professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, US.

"But as vigorous activity was independently associated with only two of the markers examined, it may be that its truly meaningful benefits may be limited, relative to less-intense exercise."

They found 32 significant associations between biomarkers and vigorous physical activity out of a possible 360. 'All-out' workouts adding up to just 60 seconds within a ten minute session were shown to improve insulin sensitivity and cardiorespiratory fitness.

More suggests that further studies incorporating additional variables, such as dietary and genetic data, are needed to better establish the relationships between various levels of exercise and cardio metabolic biomarkers in young people.

“If such studies provide robust results,” he said, “a relatively brief but intense dose of physical activity , perhaps as little as 10 minutes day, which is certainly feasible for most youth, could turn out to be part of a ‘prescription’ for children to achieve or maintain cardiac and metabolic health.”

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