TUESDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Even if kids spend the rest of their time sitting around, an hour of any physical activity a day will benefit their heart health, English researchers report.
Their study found that children and teens who got more moderate to vigorous physical exercise daily than their peers had better cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight, which are important for long-term health.
"Parents, schools and institutions should facilitate and promote physical activity of at least moderate intensity in all children and be less concerned about the total amount of time spent sedentary, at least in relation to these cardiovascular risk factors," said study author Ulf Ekelund, group leader of the Physical Activity Epidemiology Program at the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge, England.
"We demonstrated that higher levels of physical activity of at least moderate intensity -- equal to brisk walking -- are associated with [improving] many cardiovascular disease risk factors, regardless of the amount of time these children spent sedentary," he said.
For example, those children who belonged to the most active group had a smaller waist than those in the least active group, he said.
"In adults, this difference is associated with an about 15 percent increased relative risk of premature death," Ekelund said.
The type of activity is not important as long as the intensity is at least equal to brisk walking, Ekelund said. Possibilities include outdoor play, bicycling, dancing, aerobics, walking and playing team sports.
However, the positive benefits of exercise don't necessarily counteract the harmful effects of a couch-potato lifestyle, he said. "There may be specific sedentary behaviors, such as TV viewing, that impose health risks as TV viewing is linked to other unhealthy behaviors [such as snacking]. Therefore, limiting TV time
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