FEB 06, 2017 8:33 PM PST

Childhood Exercise is Beneficial for Life

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

You are never too young to reap the health benefits from frequent exercise, and a new study proves this by directly linking regular habits of physical activity in young children with lower arterial stiffness, a cardiovascular disease risk factor commonly recognized by experts.

Arterial stiffness leads to elevated systolic blood pressure, which causes the left ventricle of the heart to work harder than it should. An overworked heart muscle cannot deliver oxygen via blood to the tissues as well as a healthier heart muscle, and the loss of sufficient oxygen supply can lead to various adverse cardiovascular events. Arterial stiffness is closely related to blood pressure, and thus it is also recognized by experts as an important prognostic factor and potential therapeutic target for hypertensive individuals.

In a study of 136 children between six and eight years old, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland compared the effects on arterial stiffness after participants completed various levels of physical activity. They controlled for various other factors that can influence arterial stiffness and other characteristics of heart disease, like diet quality, body fat percentage, sleep length. Controlling for these aspects of disease is important, because cardiovascular conditions are different for people of all ages, and risk factors act differently among different types of people.

They found that the association between lower arterial stiffness and physical activity only became visible when the exercise was considered to be “moderate to vigorous;” sedentary habits or even light physical activity did not cut it.

"It seems that the positive effects of physical activity on arterial stiffness require sufficient cardiovascular strain, and light physical activity does not provide that kind of stimulus,” explained Dr. Eero Haapala, PhD. “Moderate-to-vigorous exercise can also counterbalance the effects of sedentary time." Haapala’s study was one part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study.

Exercise levels were quantified and measured with a combined heart rate and movement sensor, and arterial stiffness measured with a pulse contour analysis based on “photoplethysmography,” an optical technique used to sense blood volume changes in blood vessels.

While this study showed the relationship between a sedentary lifestyle in young children and arterial stiffness, the same process happens naturally with age. Past research notes the cause behind age-related arterial stiffness as a “degeneration of compliant elastin fibers and deposition of stiffer collagen.”

The researchers from the study concluded that there is a “threshold value for sufficient exercise,” either 68 minutes of moderate physical activity or 26 minutes of vigorous activity. Physical activities that satisfy this requirement include games involving running, ball games, gymnastics, dance.

The current study was recently published in the journal Pediatric Exercise Science.

Sources: Hypertension, Circulation, IOP Science, University of Eastern Finland

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 24, 2019
Cardiology
JUN 24, 2019
Performance Enhancing Bacteria?
Attempts by athletes to increase their performance occasionally goes too far. This is the case in endless doping scandals across all types of elite athleti...
JUN 28, 2019
Cardiology
JUN 28, 2019
Denying Woman Abortions Results In Long Lasting Consequences
Previous studies have shown that women who are denied access to abortion face threats to their mental health. It’s also possible that forced motherho...
JUL 04, 2019
Cardiology
JUL 04, 2019
Cardiovascular Benefits Of Walking In Cities Lessened By Pollutants
Walking is a fantastic way to stay in shape. While easier on your joints than running, walking still provides many health benefits. Some of these benefits...
JUL 13, 2019
Cardiology
JUL 13, 2019
Those With Views Of Nature From Their Homes, Healthier
The benefits of exposing yourself to nature are well documented. Our proximity to nature influences everything from mental-health to air quality. Studies h...
NOV 07, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
NOV 07, 2019
A Revealing Look at Rare Disease Incidence
Being diagnosed with a rare disease can be especially terrifying for patients. After all, many of these diseases have no treatment options. This is because...
JAN 15, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 15, 2020
Burnout May Cause Heart Problems
At least 2.7 million Americans are affected by the most common variety of irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation (AFib). Now, new research has f...
Loading Comments...