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Childhood inactivity leads to future fat: study

The amount of exercise children get in their early years has a direct link to future weight gain and risk of chronic disease, a study from the University of Sydney has shown.

Researchers tracked the progress of 4600 children for four years and found those who were more active in childhood grew up to be healthier teens, with lower body fat and reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The research was published in the journal Paediatrics. It is the longest-running study to measure children’s physical activity to discover the long-term health impacts of childhood exercise.

In light of these findings, associate professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from USYD’s Charles Perkins Centre and faculty of health sciences, has called for robust long-term national policy to get kids active.

“Our study provides clear evidence that the negative effects of inactivity in childhood are evident well before adulthood,” Stamatakis said. “With technology today [leading to] excessive sitting and screen time, we urgently need a serious long-term health policy that promotes strategies in schools and communities to give young people more opportunities for walking, cycling, play and sports on a daily basis.”

Stamatakis also said studies into the long-term effects of children’s exercise habits have been limited. Whilst the research did not show a link between sedentary behaviour and negative health consequences, researchers did speculate a longer-term follow-up into adulthood could yield different results.

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