WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Just 10 minutes of high-intensity physical exercise a day may significantly help overweight children decrease their risk of developing heart ailments or diabetes, a new study finds.
Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center studied data from children and teenagers who were part of the International Children’s Accelerometry Database — a consortium that pools accelerometer data from a multitude of studies conducted across the globe to create one larger sample size used for research. For this particular study, the authors examined 11,588 participants ages 4-18 from 11 studies that took place in the U.S., Brazil, and other European countries.
Data the team monitored included the child’s age, gender, level of physical activity, and at least one risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, or stroke — such as measurements of cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, insulin, or waist circumference.
The researchers determined that all associations of the biomarkers with high-intensity physical activity were linked to a child’s waist size and their insulin levels. When light-intensity physical activity for longer periods of time was replaced with high-intensity activity over shorter durations — as little as 10 minutes — the children saw a reduction in waist size up to three inches and improved insulin levels.
“The results suggest that substituting modest amounts of vigorous physical activity for longer-duration light exercise may have cardiometabolic benefits above and beyond those conveyed by moderate activity and the avoidance of sedentary behavior,” says study lead author Dr. Justin B. Moore, an associate professor of family and community medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, in a university news release. “But as vigorous activity was independently associated with only two of the markers examined, it may be that its truly meaningful benefits may be limited, relative to less-intense exercise.”
Genetic data and a closer look at participants’ diets may yield more concrete results when it comes to linking various levels of exercise and biomarkers of heart disease and diabetes, Moore believes.
“If such studies provide robust results,” he says, “a relatively brief but intense dose of physical activity – perhaps as little as 10 minutes day, which is certainly feasible for most youth – could turn out to be part of a ‘prescription’ for children to achieve or maintain cardiac and metabolic health.”
The study was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.