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diabetes
Physical activity vital to reducing childhood diabetes

Powerful evidence has emerged showing that increasing vigorous exercise can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in childhood.

A two-year follow-up study of more than 500 children clearly indicates that the children who increased their exercise, such as bike riding, had lower risk than those that remained sedentary, whose risks increased.

The study is significant in that the subjects wore an Actiheart device, which records heart rate and body movement, to objectively measure physical activity. Children wore the Actiheart device continuously for a minimum of four days, and the measurement period included weekdays and days of the weekend.

The study is particularly important as it is one of the first follow-up studies in the world to reliably show that increasing the amount of vigorous exercise is independently associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in ordinary primary school children.

The article is part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study, ongoing at the University of Eastern Finland. Conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Cambridge, the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the University of Copenhagen, the findings of the study were published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

"A physically passive lifestyle is gradually becoming alarmingly widespread among children and young people almost all over the world. Our findings provide support for the role of physical activity in preventing common chronic diseases already in childhood," says Researcher Juuso Väistö, the first author of the article, from the University of Eastern Finland.

He said children and young people should engage in more physical exercise than what it takes to go about their daily activities.

"Our findings show that increasing the amount of vigorous exercise and reducing sedentary behaviour are equally important in preventing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"According to latest recommendations, children need diverse physical activity every day, and at least 60 minutes should be vigorous exercise. In practice, vigorous exercise refers to exercise or games that cause shortness of breath and perspiration.”

The PANIC Study has earlier shown that the accumulation of risk factors of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which typically exists in people who are overweight, often begins already in childhood.

This is a cause for concern, as the accumulation of risk factors in childhood significantly increases the risk of these diseases in adulthood.

According to this newly published study, regular exercise and avoiding a physically passive lifestyle constitute efficient means of mitigating the risk factors type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.