London: Children need only seven minutes of exercise a day to stay fit, according to new research.
But sadly, many children are missing the mark.

"If you watch late-night television, or look in the backs of magazines, you’ll see magical ads saying you need just 10 minutes a day or five minutes a day of exercise to stay fit. And for those of us in the medical field, we just rolled our eyes at that. But surprisingly, they may actually be right and that’s what this research shows," says co-principal investigator Richard Lewanczuk, a researcher with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

"Our research showed children don’t need a lot of intense physical activity to get the health benefits of exercise - seven minutes or more of vigorous physical activity was all that was required. But the seven minutes had to be intense to prevent weight gain, obesity and its adverse health consequences. And most kids weren't getting that."

More than 600 children, between the ages of nine to 17 from Leduc and surrounding areas, wore monitors that tracked their physical activity levels for seven days. These children also had their weight, waist circumference and blood pressure regularly monitored.

Researchers reviewed the data and determined the children spent almost 70 per cent of their time doing sedentary activities; nearly 23 per cent was devoted to light physical activity; almost seven per cent to moderate physical activity and 0.6 per cent to vigorous physical activity.

Overall, boys were less sedentary than girls. And the more vigorous the physical activity, the less apt the children were to be overweight.

Children who were overweight had improved fitness levels and shrinking waist lines when they increased the amount of time spent doing vigorous activities.

"This research tells us that a brisk walk isn’t good enough," says Lewanczuk, a professor in the Department of Medicine who has been studying this topic for eight years.

"Kids have to get out and do a high-intensity activity in addition to maintaining a background of mild to moderate activity. There’s a strong correlation between obesity, fitness and activity. Activity and fitness is linked to a reduction in obesity and good health outcomes," he added.

The study was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.


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