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15 minutes of football?

22 June 2007

A report by Professor Andy Ness and his ‘Children of the 90s’ team at Bristol, together with Professor Chris Riddoch from Bath University, suggests that making even small increases to a child’s daily exercise routine, such as walking them to school instead of taking the car, could have dramatic long-term results.

While a poor diet and lack of exercise have long been known to cause obesity, what researchers have been unable to discover until now, is exactly how major a role activity plays in the battle to keep obesity at bay. Using the latest techniques, they discovered that doing 15 minutes a day of moderate exercise lowered a child’s chances of being obese by almost 50 per cent.  As long as the activity was at least at the level of a brisk walk – enough to make your child a little out of breath – it seemed to be of benefit.

Researchers monitored 5,500 12-year-olds from the ‘Children of the 90s’, a unique ongoing research project based in the University that enrolled 14,000 mothers during pregnancy in 1991-2, and has followed most of the children and parents in minute detail ever since.

Each child wore a special ‘Actigraph activity monitor’, which sits on a belt around the waist and records their activity levels for 10 hours a day. Most wore the movement-sensitive monitor for a week but all used the Actigraph for at least three days. They also had their body fat measured using an X-ray emission scanner, which differentiates both muscle and fat deposits in the body. Professor Ness commented how even modest increases in physical activity could lead to important reductions in childhood obesity.

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

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