MONDAY, Sept. 10, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Vigorous physical activity helps reduce adolescents' risk of heart and metabolic problems, according to a new study.
Canadian researchers looked at more than 600 youths with an average age of about 12 years to assess how levels of physical activity affected cardiometabolic risk factors such as body-mass index (a measurement of body fat based on height and weight), waist circumference, systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and heart and lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness.
Twenty-six percent of the children were overweight or obese at the study's start.
The researchers found that with vigorous exercise, BMI, waist circumference and systolic blood pressure decreased, and that cardiorespiratory fitness and maximal oxygen consumption increased.
Doing more than seven minutes of vigorous exercise a day was associated with reduced chances of being overweight and of having elevated systolic blood pressure.
Light or moderate exercise did not lead to any significant changes in cardiometabolic risk factors.
The study was published online Sept. 10 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The findings show that vigorous physical activity is superior to light and moderate exercise for reducing cardiometabolic risk factors in youth, concluded Jacqueline Hay, of the Manitoba Institute of Child Health in Canada, and colleagues.
The results strongly support the inclusion of vigorous exercise targets within current physical-activity guidelines for youth, they added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about physical activity and young people.