Current recommendations “insufficient “to protect children against cardiovascular disease
The importance of physical activity to prevent cardiovascular disease risk in children has been emphasized in numerous studies however; there have been no large scale study that examines the association in children under nine years old.
The general recommendation is that 60 minutes daily of moderate-vigorous physical activity is needed to improve health however; younger children may require more.
In new study researchers from the University of Zaragosa led by David Jiménez Pavón is the first to examine the association between physical activity and cardiovascular disease risk factors in younger children.
The IDEFICS study, authored by Jiménez-Pavón and associates, uses more than 3,000 two- to nine-year-old children from eight European countries to determine the relationships between objectively-monitored PA and a clustered CVD risk score.
The researchers calculated the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by looking at factors of systolic blood pressure (SBP), total triglycerides (TG), total cholesterol (TC)/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) in a study of 3,120 children (1,016 between 2 to 6 years, 2,104 between 6 to 9 years)
The risk profile suggested different amounts of physical activity required to reduce CVD risk for younger children compared to older children, as well as for boys and girls; “one size does not fit all”. The team recommended age- and gender-specific guidelines; boys under six years required more than 70 minutes of minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day, whereas older boys need at least 80 minutes. Girls of all ages need around an hour of exercise.
In their conclusion the team writes “PA is important to protect against clustering of CVD risk factors in young children, being more consistent in those older than 6 years. Healthcare professionals should recommend around 60 and 85 min/day of moderate-to-vigorous PA, including 20 min/day of vigorous PA”.
Dr. Robert G McMurray, PhD, FACSM, Distinguished Professor of Exercise and Sports Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in a commentary writes “The results of the IDEFICS study presented by Jiménez-Pavón and colleagues provides a good “first look” at the relationship between PA levels and CVD risk in young children. This is important because there are little data on children of this age. The results suggest that even in young children, less than six years of age, some evidence of the metabolic syndrome (clustered risk) is accruing. Therefore, early childhood prevention should be the focus of future interventions. The study also provides substantive data on PA requirements based on health outcomes and suggests the importance of age and sex when prescribing PA. Therefore, clinicians should avoid using generalized guidelines for PA and evaluate “at risk” children on a case-by-case basis. The IDEFICS study has a very rich data set and it is hoped the authors will continue to provide us with new information.”