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Ten minutes of daily exercise can prevent childhood obesity

There is no need for huge amounts of strenuous exercise to prevent children becoming overweight. Even brief spurts of ten minutes of physical activity have a positive effect, according to research carried out at the University of Eastern Finland.

Happy children jumping.
Image: Annika Rauhala

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland examined the relationship between physical activity alternating with inactivity, and the impact on obesity and endurance fitness in children aged 6-8 years. More than 400 children from Kuopio were included in the study. Results were adjusted to take into consideration other factors such and diet and sleep.

Not surprisingly, the study showed that the more children move, the lower their fat percentage. What was surprising is that even brief periods of exercise have a significantly positive effect. The children who engaged in strenuous levels of exercise for ten minutes a day had 26%-30% less fat tissue than children who did not exercise. Even replacing ten minutes of passive sitting with 10 minutes of low levels of exercise decreased fat mass in children by 13%.

The researchers conclude that reducing the time that children sit still can effectively prevent obesity. Replacing ten minutes of inactivity with moderate physical activity also improves children's overall fitness, the study shows.

Sounding the alarm

Concern about growing levels of obesity is on the rise, as is obesity itself. Researchers at the University of Helsinki say it is expected that if the current trend continues, there will be more than 200,000 chronically overweight children in Finland by 2025. Worldwide, by 2025, the number of obese children could be 25% higher than it was in 2010.

One move to combat childhood obesity could be a tax on sugary drinks being urged by the World Health Organization. It says there is evidence that a price increase of sugar products would reduce consumption significantly. The WHO estimates that a price increase of 20% would result in a corresponding percentage reduction in obesity figures.

While Finland already taxes soft drinks, and will continue to do so, a tax on sweets and ice cream will be eliminated beginning in 2017 after being deemed incompatible with EU law.

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