Sedentary behavior and low activity levels in childhood linked to heart strain in adolescence

According to a recent Finnish study, conducted at the University of Jyväskylä, high levels of sedentary behavior and physical inactivity from childhood strain the heart in adolescence. High cardiac workload predicts heart failure and other heart diseases. In light of the findings, increasing moderate and vigorous physical activity from childhood onwards is particularly important in preventing heart diseases.

In a collaborative study by the Faculty of Sport Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä and the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Eastern Finland, sedentary behavior and physical activity were followed from childhood to adolescence for eight years. The study showed that adolescents accumulating high levels of sedentary behavior and low levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity from childhood onwards had a higher cardiac workload in adolescence. Cardiac workload was particularly high in adolescents accumulating low levels of vigorous physical activity.

In addition, high levels of sedentary behavior and low levels of physical activity were associated with a higher total body fat percentage. Body fat percentage partly explained the associations between sedentary behavior, physical activity, and cardiac workload. Light physical activity was not associated with cardiac workload.

The results emphasize the importance of increasing physical activity, especially moderate and vigorous activity, reducing sedentary behavior, and preventing overweight from childhood to prevent heart diseases.

Youth spend nine to ten hours a day being sedentary, and only one in ten adolescents accumulated 60 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity. These are worrying figures."

Dr. Eero Haapala, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä

"High levels of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity should be a normal part of childhood and adolescence as it improves heart health, but also general well-being," Haapala emphasizes.

The study is based on the ongoing Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study conducted at the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Eastern Finland. Sedentary behaviour and physical activity levels were followed for eight years from childhood to adolescence in 153 adolescents. Heart function and strain were measured in adolescence. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Journal reference:

Haapala, E. A., et al. (2024). Accumulating Sedentary Time and Physical Activity From Childhood to Adolescence and Cardiac Function in Adolescence. Journal of the American Heart Association. Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Disease.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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