Physical activity recommendations for children

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Physical activity recommendations in early childhood should be a focus of future cardiovascular disease prevention efforts, according to a study of 3,000 children age 2-9 years from eight European countries.

The age and sex of the children are important factors in determining the right physical activity requirements. Boys age six years or younger need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, whereas boys age 6-9 years need at least 80 minutes. Girls in either age group need approximately 15 minutes less. Recommendations should also include 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity per day in all children.

Clinicians should avoid using generalized physical activity guidelines and evaluate children at risk of cardiovascular disease on a case-by-case basis, the researchers said.

1. Jiménez-Pavón D, Konstabel K, Bergman P, et al. Physical activity and clustered cardiovascular disease risk factors in young children: a cross-sectional study (the IDEFICS study). BMC Medicine 2013; 11: 172. (open access)
2. McMurray RG. Insights into physical activity and cardiovascular disease risk in young children: IDEFICS study. BMC Medicine 2013; 11: 173. (open access)

Leisure time exercise lengthens life expectancy, study finds

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Adults who participate in leisure time physical activity, even below recommended levels, are likely to reduce their risk of death, according to a review study that included 650,000 people over age 40 years.

Life expectancy could be increased by as much as 4.5 years, regardless of weight. Even obese people who were very active were found to live an average of 3.1 more years than inactive people of normal weight.

The results may help convince currently inactive people that a modest physical activity program may have health benefits, even if it does not result in weight loss, the study concludes.

1. Moore SC, Patel AV, Matthews CE, et al. Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis. PLoS Medicine 2011; 9(11): e1001335. (open access)

Family, school support key in teen physical activity

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Teens are less likely to engage in physical activity if they lack support and encouragement from family, school, and the community, according to a British study of adolescents age 16-18 years of Bangladeshi, Somali or Welsh descent.

Girls exercise less than boys because female physical activity is viewed as unimportant. Boys find barriers through lack of access to exercise resources, parental fear of injury and the belief that teens should be studying or working rather than playing. Although both boys and girls would like to increase their exercise frequency, girls tend to have a negative view of physical activity, while boys think positively about it.

“Interventions should focus on changing the attitudes of parents, communities and society toward activity,” the study concluded.

1. Brophy S, Crowley A, Mistry R. Recommendations to improve physical activity among teenagers: A qualitative study with ethnic minority and European teenagers. BMC Public Health 2011; 11: 412. (open access)