According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, kids with sedentary lifestyles benefit from short bouts of exercise.
In order to conduct the experiment, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) selected 28 healthy, normal-weight children (aged 7-11 years), who were randomly divided into 2 groups. The first one was sedentary for 3 hours continuously (watching TV, reading etc.), while the second group walked on a treadmill for 3 minutes, every half an hour. After 7-28 days, the children participated in the study again, but this time they switched groups.
Upon completing every session, the kids took an oral glucose tolerance test, so that scientists could assess the speed at which their bodies absorbed glucose and produced insulin. Such a test is usually given to expectant mothers, to check if they have developed gestational diabetes. The results showed that on the days when children took physical exercise on the treadmill their glucose levels were 7% lower, while their insulin levels were 32% lower. In addition, the concentration of free fatty acids (also related to type 2 diabetes) was also reduced, as well as the levels of C-peptide, which measures the amount of effort the pancreas puts into regulating blood sugar.
Nowadays, about 1 in 3 American kids and teens is overweight or obese, more than triple the rate from 1971. On average, children spend approximately 6 hours daily in a seated or reclining position, putting their health at risk. Such a sedentary lifestyle reduces the body’s ability to clear sugar from the bloodstream after a meal, which results in a greater production of insulin. This heightens the risk of beta cell dysfunction, one of the contributing factors for type 2 diabetes.
It is commonly accepted that at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day is greatly beneficial to people’s wellbeing, but most people find it increasingly difficult to fit even this amount of time into their busy schedule.
However, `even small activity breaks could have a substantial impact on children’s long-term health’, explains Dr. Jack A. Yanovski, the study’s senior author and chief of the Growth & Obesity Section at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The negative effects of lack of activity can be offset by exercise, even if it’s done for a short while. Interrupting idleness periodically can fight obesity and other medical ailments such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The findings of this study are in keeping with previous research, which had shown that when adults walked a mile in 15-20 minutes they could lower their glucose and insulin levels. Further research may one day lead to integrating exercise breaks into school classes, so that obesity can be kept at bay more effectively.
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