A recent study released on Wednesday suggests that extended periods of inactivity during childhood might be a precursor to heart problems such as heart attacks and strokes later in life. The research, presented at the European Society of Cardiology, reveals that sedentary behaviour that accumulates from childhood through young adulthood could lead to heart damage, even in individuals with healthy weight and blood pressure levels.
Agbaje stressed on the importance of increased physical activity
The lead author of the study, Andrew Agbaje from the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, emphasized that the countless hours spent in front of screens during youth can contribute to increased strain on the heart, a connection that has already been established in studies involving adults and their susceptibility to heart attacks and strokes. Agbaje stressed on the importance of increased physical activity for children and teenagers as a means of safeguarding their long-term cardiovascular health.
The research methodology involved outfitting children with smartwatches equipped with activity trackers for seven days when they were 11 years old. This process was repeated at ages 15 and 24. Echocardiography, a type of ultrasound scan, was employed to assess the weight of the left ventricle of the heart at ages 17 and 24, with the results reported in grams relative to height (g/m2.7).
By accounting for various influential factors such as age, gender, blood pressure, body fat, smoking habits, physical activity, and socioeconomic status, the researchers explored the link between sedentary behavior between the ages of 11 and 24 and heart measurements taken between ages 17 and 24. The study encompassed a total of 766 children, of which 55 percent were female and 45 percent male.
The findings indicated that at 11 years old, children engaged in an average of 362 minutes of sedentary activity per day. This figure rose to 474 minutes during adolescence (15 years old) and further escalated to 531 minutes during young adulthood (24 years old). On average, this represented an increase of 169 minutes (equivalent to 2.8 hours) of sedentary time per day between childhood and young adulthood.
Agbaje highlighted the study’s implication that the accumulation of inactive time holds a correlation with heart damage, irrespective of an individual’s body weight or blood pressure levels. He recommended that parents actively motivate their children and adolescents to engage in more physical movement, such as going for walks, while also limiting the time spent on social media and video games.