Nav: Home

Researchers find physical activity in preschool years can affect future heart health

June 11, 2019

Physical activity in early childhood may have an impact on cardiovascular health later in life, according to new research from McMaster University, where scientists followed the activity levels of hundreds of preschoolers over a period of years.

They found that physical activity in children as young as three years old benefits blood vessel health, cardiovascular fitness and is key to the prevention of early risk indicators that can lead to adult heart disease.

The study, named "Health Outcomes and Physical activity in Preschoolers", published today in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to demonstrate the benefits of physical activity on blood vessel health in preschoolers.

"Many of us tend to think cardiovascular disease hits in older age, but arteries begin to stiffen when we are very young," explains Nicole Proudfoot, a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and lead author on the study.

"It's important to start any kind of preventative measures early. We need to ensure small children have many opportunities to be active to keep their hearts and blood vessels as healthy as possible," she says.

More than 400 children between the ages of three and five were involved in the study. Over the course of three years, the researchers measured and analyzed key markers of heart health: cardiovascular fitness, arterial stiffness and blood pressure.

The researchers calculated cardiovascular fitness by measuring how long the children could last on a treadmill test and how fast their heart rates recovered after exercise. They measured arterial stiffness by how fast their pulse traveled through their body and used ultrasound imaging to measure the stiffness of the carotid artery. They also measured blood pressure.

They tracked physical activity each year by having the children wear an accelerometer around their waist for one week, allowing researchers to determine the amount and intensity of their activity each day.

The researchers determined that while arteries stiffen over time, the process is slower in young children who have been more active. Those children also showed more endurance on the treadmill, suggesting they had better cardiovascular fitness, and their heart rates came down faster after exercise. While the findings showed total physical activity had favourable effects on cardiovascular health, more intense physical activity was more beneficial.

"This research suggests that intensity matters," says Brian Timmons, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at McMaster and the Canada Research Chair in Child Health & Exercise Medicine, who supervised the research. "Children benefit the most from energetic play, which means getting out of breath by playing games such as tag. And the more, the better."

The physical activity does not have to happen all at once, he suggests. Children should be active throughout the day.

The findings were similar among boys and girls who participated in the study, though researchers found physical activity had a positive influence on blood pressure in the girls only.

"We know physical activity is key to cardiovascular health, but these findings point to the protective effects it can have very early in life," says Maureen MacDonald, dean of the Faculty of Science at McMaster and co-investigator on the study. "In future, we hope to examine if these beneficial effects of physical activity on heart health indicators in early childhood carry on into later childhood and eventually adulthood."
-end-
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

McMaster University

Related Physical Activity Articles:

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.
Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.
Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.
Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.
Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.
Light, physical activity reduces brain aging
Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging.
Decline in physical activity often starts as early as age 7
Overall physical activity starts to decline already around the age of school entry.
Is it ever too late for adults to benefit from physical activity?
It may never be too late for adults to become physically active and enjoy some health benefits.
More Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.