Current guidelines say children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day for optimal health and fitness. For many, this is a tall order. Fortunately, exercise doesn’t require an all-or-nothing approach. Recent research has determined that even small amounts of daily high-intensity activity can help kids ward off weight gain.
The study, facilitated by the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration with the University of Cambridge in England, had one simple purpose: To understand any associations linking physical activity and sedentary time with body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness in 410 kids aged 6–8.
The researchers analyzed fat mass index, trunk fat mass index and fat-free mass index using X-ray absorptiometry. Then the scientists compared those measurements against cardiorespiratory fitness scores determined via cycle ergometer and against physical activity levels logged by activity trackers over at least 4 days.
Not surprisingly, the most active kids had lower trunk and total fat mass than less active kids. Higher-intensity activity tended to promote greater improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness than lower-intensity exercise. Study authors also indicated that each 10 minutes of activity spent at or above 7 METs (metabolic equivalent of task) was associated with a 26%–30% reduction in fat mass index and trunk fat mass index.
“[Vigorous physical activity] was most beneficial for fitness and fatness, from a time-for-time perspective, but displacing any lower-for-higher intensity may be an important first-order public health strategy,” the authors said.
The study was published in Sports Medicine (2016; doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0606-x).