A little exercise can make a big difference in a child’s life. Twenty minutes a day may help lessen the risk of diabetes in kids according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The clinical trial randomly assigned 222 overweight and inactive kids to three different activity groups.
One group was assigned to 20 minutes of execise a day. Another group was assigned 40 minutes a day while the third set of kids was told to continue with their normal physical activity. This group served as a control group for the trial.
Children who did low and high amounts of aerobic exercise had greater reductions in insulin resistance than those in the control group, along with greater decreases in overall body fat and abdominal fat, said Catherine Davis, of the Medical College of Georgia, and colleagues, in a journal news release.
The exercise-related reductions in diabetes risk factors occurred in both boys and girls, and in children of different races.
What was surprising is that the kids who benefited the most from the exercise didn’t change what they ate.
"I hope these findings will provide an impetus for changes in communities around the U.S. and the rest of the world that will focus attention on children's health," Davis said. "This can be done by providing welcoming, safe physical activity programs for children of all skill levels."
Not surprisingly, the kids who exercised longer had better values for markers of diabetes risk and had less body fat.
"This study helps to isolate the benefit of exercise in cutting down on diabetes risk and obesity in kids," said study co-author, Dr. B. Adam Dennis, an endocrinology fellow at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta, Ga.
The study suggests that schools should add a short amount of time to exercise during the day, for students. 20 minutes a day could be added through recess and gym classes. A 40 minute exercise plan might require an after school program.
Davis added that exercise is not just useful in cutting back diabetes risk and obesity, but it is also good for kids' brains. She cited a related study that showed that exercise improved cognition and math skills in kids.
Some schools focus their attention on the more athletic kids and the less physically fit kids get left behind. Designing a physical fitness program that includes all kids could help students not only avoid obesity and diabetes but may help improve their ability to learn as well. That becomes a definite win-win situation.
While some exercise is better than none, more exercise is best of all.
Over one-third of American elementary school children are obese or overweight. It’s truly a national epidemic. Type2 diabetes is also increasing. According to the American Diabetes Association about 1 in every 400 children and adolescents has diabetes. The possible long-term affects of diabetes include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, blindness and nervous system damage.
In lieu of that, at least 20 minutes of exercise a day sounds like the much better option.