Few can deny that the children of today need more exercise. Now there may be a new reason to keep young children active. A brand new study shows that a higher childhood activity level at age five may help to ward off obesity later in childhood even if activity levels drop off. This is one of the first studies to show that it may be possible to “store up” the effects of exercise so that the benefits can be experienced years later.
Childhood Activity Level and the Risk of Weight Gain: The Study
In this study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers monitored the activity level of five year old children using a special device called an accelerometer. They also measured their body fat and muscle content at age ages five, eight, and eleven. When they analyzed the data, they found that the five year olds with the highest childhood activity levels had less overall body fat compared to those who were not as active.
Childhood Activity Level: How Important Is It?
Can keeping your child active reduce the risk of obesity later in childhood? This study seems to suggest this intriguing possibility. It’s not completely clear why childhood activity level at age five would impact body weight later in childhood. Researchers hypothesize that being active during this critical period of growth might result in the development of fewer fat cells that would have the potential to enlarge later in childhood Being active at age five could also alter critical hormone levels associated with fat storage and obesity.
How to Motivate a Five Year Old To Be Active
Keeping a preschooler active may be one of the best ways to reduce the risk of weight problems later in life. In addition to the effects seen in this study, encouraging activity early in life can establish a life long enjoyment of being active. Reducing time spent playing computer games and watching television is an important first step. Replacing sedentary pursuits with outdoor games and family activities that involve running, jumping, biking, and outdoor games can help a child develop a fondness for physical activity and the great outdoors. Doing family activities as a group is another excellent way to reinforce the idea that exercise is fun.
Childhood Activity Level: Every Little Bit Counts
One interesting aspect of this study was that adding on as little as ten extra minutes of exercise a day had an impact on body weight later in childhood. Simply encouraging your child to get up off the couch and go outside several times a day can give him those additional minutes of exercise that could ward off obesity later.
The Bottom Line?
Childhood activity level may help to determine how much weight a child puts on later. One more reason to get your child moving.