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Understanding the impact of sedentary behavior on children's health

Previous research has shown that the majority of a student's school day, 70 percent, is completely sedentary and that sitting for long periods of time can increase a child's risk for certain health conditions.

To better understand this issue, a team of Canadian researchers completed a systematic review of existing literature on the relationship between sedentary behavior and health in school-aged children. Their findings were recently published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity.

During the study, the researchers evaluated 232 studies involving 983,840 participants between the ages of 5 and 17 and analyzed data pertaining to six broadly defined health indicators: body composition, fitness, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, self-esteem, pro-social behavior and academic achievement.

In a post today on Obesity Panacea, Travis Saunders, a co-author of the study and a PhD student in exercise physiology in Ottawa, Canada, described the findings:

Based on this systematic review of 232 studies, sedentary behaviour (assessed primarily through increased TV viewing) for more than 2 hours per day was associated with unfavourable body composition, decreased fitness,lowered scores for self-esteem and pro-social behaviour and decreased academic achievement in school-aged children and youth (5-17 years). This was true for all study designs, across all countries, using both direct and indirect measurements, and regardless of participant sample size. All studies examining risk factors for [metabolic syndrome] and [cardiovascular disease] reported that increased sedentary time was associated with increased health risk; however, the included studies examined a wide range of risk factors, and thus there was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions on the relationship for metabolic risk as a whole.

Noting the abundance of studies on sedentary behavior and body weight, Saunders urged colleagues in the field to focus future research on gaining new insights into how prolonged sitting may affect other health outcomes among children.

Previously: Series looks at the physiology of sedentary behavior, Stanford hosts conference on the science of sedentary behavior, Is your child getting enough excercise?, and Does TV watching, or prolonged sitting, contribute to child obesity rates?
Photo by woodleywonderworks

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