Sedentary Childhood Leads To Premature Vascular Damage: Study

The study was conducted in collaboration with Oxford University, the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, and the University of Eastern Finland, and the results were published in Acta Physiologica.
Sedentary Childhood Leads To Premature Vascular Damage: Study
Sedentary Childhood Leads To Premature Vascular Damage: StudyREPRESENTATIVE

According to a recent study, spending more time being inactive starting from childhood is associated with a decline in the flexibility of our arteries, which is a sign of early damage to our blood vessels. Nevertheless, engaging in light physical activity can potentially reduce this risk.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Oxford University, the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, and the University of Eastern Finland, and the results were published in Acta Physiologica.

A previous study conducted with the same data discovered that sedentary time escalated from approximately six to nine hours per day between childhood and young adulthood. This increase in sedentary behavior poses a higher risk for various health issues such as fat obesity, dyslipidemia, inflammation, and an enlarged heart. Additionally, the researchers identified arterial stiffness as a new risk factor for childhood and teenage obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and early heart problems.

Aging also contributes to the worsening of arterial stiffness. Research on adults indicates that a high level of arterial stiffness, rather than the natural process of stiffening, increases the likelihood of premature death by 47 per cent. However, it has not been clear whether being sedentary increases arterial stiffness on its own, separate from the effects of aging and known risk factors for heart disease and metabolic issues.

The impact of childhood inactivity can be counteracted by engaging in light physical activity (LPA). Nevertheless, the long-term effects of LPA on reducing arterial stiffness in childhood have not been thoroughly investigated due to limited studies that have consistently measured arterial stiffness in large groups of healthy young individuals.

The current study, using data from the University of Bristol's Children of the 90s, is the largest and longest follow-up study to measure movement behavior and arterial stiffness using accelerometers. The study followed 1339 children from ages 11 to 24. These children wore accelerometer devices on their waist at ages 11, 15, and 24 for 4-7 days, and had arterial stiffness measurements at ages 17 and 24. Additionally, their fasting blood samples were repeatedly measured for glucose, insulin, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglyceride, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. The analyses took into account factors such as blood pressure, heart rate, smoking status, socio-economic status, and family history of cardiovascular disease.

Arterial stiffness, which is determined by the speed of the pulse waves between the carotid and femoral arteries, was found to be affected by sedentary behavior. Over a 13-year period, an increase in sedentary time from 6 to 9 hours per day resulted in a 10 percent acceleration of pulse wave velocity, indicating an increase in arterial stiffness. This increase in stiffness was associated with severe vascular damage in one out of every thousand adolescents. On the other hand, participating in light physical activity for at least 3 hours per day was found to reverse arterial stiffness and vascular damage. Interestingly, engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity did not reduce arterial stiffness, but actually slightly increased it. This increase was attributed to the physiological adaptation of the vascular walls caused by an increase in muscle mass. However, the increase in arterial stiffness resulting from moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was at least three times less than the increase caused by sedentary behavior.

"Our recent studies appear to emphasize that childhood sedentariness is more dangerous to health than previously thought, " says Andrew Agbaje, an award-winning physician and associate professor (docent) of clinical epidemiology and child health at the University of Eastern Finland.

"Sedentariness is the root cause of several disease risk factors such as fat obesity, high lipid levels, inflammation, and arterial stiffness. These intermediate risk factors and actual diseases can be combatted by engaging in at least 3 - 4 hours of LPA per day. Although the World Health Organization's physical activity guideline does not yet cover LPA, nonetheless, public health experts, health policymakers, health journalists and bloggers, paediatricians, and parents should encourage kids to participate in LPA daily."

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