Less TV time, more physical activity linked with lower BMI and body fat in kids

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Meeting guidelines on physical activity is one way to help reduce the risk of obesity in children according to new research. Image: BraunS/Istock.com via AFP Relaxnews

Children who meet guidelines encouraging more physical activity and less TV have a lower risk of obesity, according to new research presented over the weekend at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Porto, Portugal.

Carried out by a team from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, the study looked at the effect of the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines on 357 children aged 5 to 18 years old.

The internationally recognized guidelines include recommendations on amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), sedentary behavior (television viewing), and sleep for children and teenagers.

They recommend a minimum of 60 minutes MVPA on at least 5 days per week, less than 2 hours a day of watching television, and sleeping 9 to 11 hours per night for 5 to 13 year olds, and 8 to 10 hours per night for 14 to 18 year olds.

For the study, the researchers measured the children’s levels of physical activity, sedentary behavior and amount of sleep using questionnaires.

Measurements of height and weight were taken to calculate each child’s BMI, and levels of body fat were also measured.

Thirty-five percent of children met the guidelines on MVPA, 31 percent met the targets on sedentary behavior, and 52 percent met the target for sleep duration.

Twenty-seven percent of the sample group achieved none of the guidelines.

The results showed that those children who met all three guidelines had an 89 percent lower risk of being obese than the children who met none of the guidelines.

Those who met two out of three guidelines benefited from a 40 percent reduced risk of obesity compared to those meeting none of the guidelines, while those who achieved one out of three guidelines had a 24 percent lower risk.

In addition, the team also found that those who achieved the recommended guidelines on physical activity also had significantly lower levels of body fat, and those who met the levels of sedentary behavior and sleep had a significantly lower BMI and lower levels of body fat.

Being overweight or obese, and carrying excess body fat are all known risk factors for a variety of serious health conditions including diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and even dementia, with research suggesting that the harmful effects of obesity can start as early as childhood.

Based on their findings the researchers concluded that, “This work suggests that interventions that target multiple lifestyle behaviors may have a potent effect on levels obesity and overweight in children.” JB

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