- Moderate to vigorous physical activity helps to reduce arterial stiffness in children.
- Increased arterial stiffness is indicative of the development of cardiovascular disease.
- Light physical activity does not provide the same effect.
High levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity are associated with lower arterial stiffness in 6-8 year old children.
Although, for lighter physical activity, no similar association was found.
‘Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was associated with better arterial health already in childhood.’
The new study is a part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study carried out in the University of Eastern Finland.
Increased arterial stiffness could begin in early childhood and is an indicator of cardiovascular disease.
According to various exercise recommendations, children need at least 60 minutes of diverse moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day.
Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity include games involving running, ball games, gymnastics and dance.
For the study the associations between objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time with arterial stiffness were measured among 136 Finnish children aged 6-8 years. Among the children 57 were boys and 79 were girls.
Researchers used a combined heart rate and movement sensor to assess physical activity and sedentary time.
Arterial stiffness was measured using pulse contour analysis based on photoplethysmography.
The researchers controlled for various confounding factors including diet quality, body fat percentage and sleep length.
The study found that children with less moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity had stiffer arteries.
The intensity of physical activity is described using MET values.
The study found that the threshold value for sufficient exercise was 68 minutes of physical activity at the level of at least 5 METs, and 26 minutes of physical activity at the level of at least 6 METs.
Children who had physical activity lower than the threshold values had increased arterial stiffness.
Differences in arterial stiffness were due to differences in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, not light physical activity or sedentary time.
"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. Moderate-to-vigorous exercise can also counterbalance the effects of sedentary time," says Dr Eero Haapala, PhD, from the University of Eastern Finland.
The study concluded that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was associated with better arterial health already in childhood.
The study published in Pediatric Exercise Science
conducted in collaboration with the University of Cambridge.
- Eero A. Haapala et al. Associations of Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time With Arterial Stiffness in Pre-pubertal Children. Pediatric Exercise Science; (2017) doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1123/pes.2016-0168