Why moderate exercise for teenagers is not enough?

written by Meena Azzollini

young boy running jumping in a field against a blue sky

Credit:123RF

These days parents worry if their children are getting enough physical activity in their daily life.

With the availability and easy access of digital devices that keep children occupied, this seems to be an important question to address as more kids are now turning to screens in their spare time rather than taking part in any sports or physical activity.

The current guidelines (NHS in the UK) says that people aged 5 to 18 should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day to improve the current and future health.

But a new study which compared the associations between physical activity intensity, sedentary time, TV viewing, cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular fitness with cardiovascular disease risk in young people found significant differences between moderate exercise and vigorous activity.

The researchers also found a strong link between watching TV and the risk factors associated with developing diabetes and heart disease in later life.

Researchers from numerous European countries used data from the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence (HELENA) study.

The findings based on 534 European adolescents (252 males and 285 females, ages 12 to 17 years), found that only vigorous activity, defined as an activity which leaves people out of breath such as sports or running in a playground, had a significant positive effect on risk factors such as BMI and waist size which increase the chance of cardiovascular disease.

Vigorous activity uses at least six times more energy than a person would use if at rest while moderate exercise uses 3 times more energy than at resting level.

Both poor cardiovascular fitness and muscular fitness are partly genetic but can be improved by exercise. Both these factors were closely linked to the risk factors for heart problems in the future.

While moderate physical activities have many benefits, its vigorous physical activity that has the greatest benefits for reducing the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also found a strong link between watching TV and the risk factors associated with developing diabetes and heart disease in later life.

Although it is rare for healthy young people to develop heart diseases and conditions at that age, the process that leads to these conditions can be tracked all the way to childhood.

This means that the lack of physical activity or engaging in moderate activity in the early years can increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease which can appear later on it life.

Thus researchers emphasise that the guidelines for young people should stress on the importance of vigorous physical activity and fitness to reduce the risk of heart disease.

There are many ways that parents can encourage children from a young age to be physically active like taking part in sports or planning weekends outdoor activities that really challenge their bodies and their minds, which will help them grow up to be resilient and healthy adults in the future.

Source: International Journal of Cardiology


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!