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Active toddlers are less likely to grow obese

Sedentary spells in young children should be limited, say researchers.

Keep toddlers toddling, and you will reduce the chance of them becoming obese in the future.

Pre-school activity can reduce obesity risk.  Photo: iStock

That’s the conclusion of a survey into physical activity among pre-school children which related exercise to body mass index (BMI) scores.

Previous studies had concentrated on exercise levels among school-age children, but researchers in Canada switched their focus to 100 children aged 19 to 60 months at eight childcare centres in Alberta to see if a relationship between movement levels and propensity to obesity could be established even earlier in life.

Movement behaviour was divided up into light, moderate and vigorous physical activity, while sedentary spells were split up into four time brackets of 1-4 minutes, 5-9 minutes, 10-14 minutes and over a quarter of an hour.

The results were weighted by incorporating questionnaire-derived information about parental education, child age and gender, then measured against BMI scores, using World Health Organization yardsticks.

Daytime sedentary bouts were deemed relatively insignificant, while night-time sleep movement was judged to be more important.

Researchers concluded that it is beneficial to limit toddlers’ sedentary behaviour to short bursts ‘for the primary prevention of overweight and obesity’.

Kuzik N, Carson V (2016) The association between physical activity, sedentary behaviour, sleep, and body mass index z-scores in different settings among toddlers and pre-schoolers. BMC Pediatrics. 16, 1, 100.

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