Physical Activity Improves Children's Metabolic Health

June 30, 2008

In pre-pubertal schoolchildren in the United Kingdom, sustained physical activity above the government-recommended intensity of three metabolic equivalents of thermogenesis for 60 minutes per day is associated with improved metabolic health without affecting body mass index. But fewer than half of boys and only one in eight girls meet this guideline, according to the results of a study published online June 30 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

MONDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- In pre-pubertal schoolchildren in the United Kingdom, sustained physical activity above the government-recommended intensity of three metabolic equivalents of thermogenesis for 60 minutes per day is associated with improved metabolic health without affecting body mass index (BMI). But fewer than half of boys and only one in eight girls meet this guideline, according to the results of a study published online June 30 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Brad S. Metcalf, of Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, the United Kingdom, and colleagues studied 212 children -- including 113 boys and 99 girls -- who were born between 1995 and 1996 and enrolled in the Early Bird non-intervention prospective cohort study. The researchers conducted clinical assessments of the children at ages 5, 6, 7 and 8 years.

Although the researchers found no association between physical activity and any measurement of body mass or fitness, they found that increased physical activity was associated with small to moderate improvements in the composite metabolic score. But they observed that only 42 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls met the guideline for physical activity.

"It may be that current guidelines are adequate, but the outcome measure used to monitor them (BMI) is too blunt. The move by U.K. government to defer the 2010 target to 2020 on the basis of BMI may have overlooked an important metabolic benefit of physical activity," the authors write. "Girls undertake systematically less physical activity than boys, and it is unclear whether the guideline should be lowered for girls, to allow for what may be a biological difference, or particular encouragement given to girls to do more."

Funding was provided by Diabetes UK, Bright Futures Trust, Smith's Charity, Child Growth Foundation, Diabetes Foundation, Beatrice Laing Trust, Abbott, Astra-Zeneca, GSK, Ipsen and Roche.

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