Inactive Children at High Risk For Metabolic Syndrome

Originally written: May 2008
Updated: April 2018

Children leading a sedentary lifestyle are much more likely to develop heart problems, a 2008 study has shown. Researchers investigating early onset metabolic syndrome (MS) in adolescents concluded that inactive kids were more than six times more likely to develop MS by their teenage years than those with active lifestyles.

MS is a condition most often found in adults, but effects up to nine percent of American adolescents as well. MS “is a clustering of cardiovascular disease risk factors that identifies individuals with the highest risk for heart disease.” MS is also related to conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

The study tracked 389 children, with the initial ages ranging from 7-10 years old. Tests were given to all participants, accounting for their physical condition (height, weight, aerobic ability, blood pressure, body fat percentage, etc…), and surveys were also given to account for their lifestyles, including physical activity and aerobic fitness levels. Children characterized as having “low aerobic fitness levels” were those who got no intensive exercise (such as playing sports), and spent less than 20 minutes a day on medium physical activity (such as riding a bike).

Seven years after the initial surveying, the then adolescents were again studied, and it was found that 18 adolescents (4.6%) had developed MS. The study also “found that adolescents with the MS were 6.08 times more likely to have low aerobic fitness as children.”

The study mentions that children today live very sedentary lifestyles as compared to the past, many kids spending excessive amounts of time in front of computer and television screens. The neglect of physical exercise in children can lead to serious problems, such as MS and diabetes, later in life. The suggestion of the study is that “efforts need to begin early in childhood to increase exercise.”

Original Source: McMurray, Robert. Bangdiwala, Shrikant. Harrell, Joanne. Amorim, Leila. Dynamic Medicine. “Adolescents with metabolic syndrome have a history of low fitness and physical activity levels.” April 2008.

Update: A 2015 study further concluded that obese children, especially those with abdominal obesity, are far more likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

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