A new study says that children who spend their time lazing around and not being active are at risk of developing heart disease in adult life as compared to their fitter and more active counterparts.
The study led by Robert McMurray from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed that lack of physical activity can influence the metabolic syndrome in teenagers, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.
"Many metabolic syndrome factors develop at an early age, before adolescence," said McMurray.
"Being able to determine which youth are at high metabolic syndrome risk is thus beneficial when considering methods of prevention.
"We've found that low levels of childhood physical activity and aerobic fitness are associated with metabolic syndrome in adolescents, so efforts need to begin early in childhood to increase exercise," he added.
The study was conducted over 400 participants between 7 to 10 years of age.
The researchers examined habitual physical activity, aerobic fitness, body mass index, blood pressure and blood fat content of the participants, and followed up for seven years.
After seven years, they found that almost half of the teenagers had developed at least one characteristic of metabolic syndrome and 5pct had developed the metabolic syndrome.
And those with the metabolic syndrome were six times more likely to have low levels of physical activity as children. They had higher body mass index levels and cholesterol as well as lower levels of fitness and activity.
Teenagers with metabolic syndrome had fitness levels well below the national average even as seven year olds.
Researchers said their findings suggested that fitness during childhood is a strong indication for the development of heart disease later in life.
"Children today live a very sedentary life and are prone to obesity. This is the first study to examine the importance of childhood fitness levels on your metabolism as a teenager," said McMurray.
The study is published in the open access journal Dynamic Medicine.