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Kids who exercise have better fat distribution

Harold Mandel's picture
A young girl playing outside

The obesity epidemic has been gaining more and more attention due to the escalating nature of this problem. Aside from physical problems associated with obesity such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure there are emotional problems associated with obesity. Kids in particular are often hit hard by these problems. It is therefore of importance to note that recent research has showed that kids who exercise display better fat distribution, which may have a significant effect on their physical and emotional well being.

Researchers set out to study the effect of a 9-month physical activity intervention program on cardiorespiratory fitness and adiposity in prepubertal children reported the journal Pediatrics. In this study prepubertal children between the ages of 8 and 9 were randomly assigned to a 9-month physical activity intervention program or a control group.

Let Your Kids Exercise Daily For These Reasons

An analysis of the results lead to the conclusion that physical activity intervention improved cardiorespiratory fitness, lowered percent fat mass and prevented accumulation of percent central fat mass. The conclusions were made dealing with children of varying adiposity levels. These findings have provided support for daily physical activity recommendations aimed at preventing excess fat mass accumulation in childhood.

The researchers found that kids who exercise have better body-fat distribution, regardless of what their weight is, reports the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Naiman Khan, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Illinois’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, said the FITKids study has demonstrated the extent to which physical activity can lead to improvements in body composition. This is significant because it matters to your health where your fat is stored.

Three Benefits in Kids Who Exercised

Khan pointed out that at the end of the nine-month program the contrast seen between those who exercised and those who did not exercise was noticeable. FITKids were seen to have improved health in many dimensions, including:

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1: Improved cardiovascular fitness

2: Less overall body fat

3: Carrying of less fat around their abdomens, which is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease

The opposite was seen for the control group who maintained their standard after-school routine.

Charles Hillman, a University of Illinois professor of kinesiology who studies the effects of physical activity on the brain and cognition, developed FITKids. His primary goal was to was to assess cognitive function as it changes in kids who are physically active in comparison to those in the control group. The results dealing with the body composition were actually secondary to the study’s primary aim. This study was seen as particularly interesting because it did not deal with weight-loss. Researchers were able to observe how exercise or lack of exercise affected body composition in normal-weight and overweight kids.

The weight of healty-weight kids, who don't exercise, doesn't remain stable

Although the kids in the control group displayed no change in cardiorespiratory fitness, they were observed to have increases in percent fat mass and abdominal fat tissue. Therefore it was seen that the weight of healthy-weight kids who don’t exercise doesn’t simply remain stable. Normal-weight kids who don’t get exercise gain an excess amount of weight relative to their age. If these kids become overweight excess fat is generally stored in their abdomens.

Clearly it is very important for kids of all weights to exercise. A positive attitude about daily exercise should be encouraged for all kids at their schools. In view of the growing tendency for kids to spend more and more time on electronic devices and less time exercising there should be larger investments in public health advertisements which encourage kids to enjoy daily exercise. Parents should also attempt to play a role in encouraging active lifestyles for their kids. Kids who exercise are likely to be healthier in many dimensions including cardiovascular fitness, cognitive and emotional well being, and fat distribution.