When it comes to kids' activity levels, schools should be the target
Children who exercise at school are not compensating for the activity by being sedentary at home, a new study reveals.
The implications suggest that school hours are the prime time for kids to be engaged in physical activity, even if their home lives are somewhat – or very – inactive.
A cap on activity?
Previous research has suggested that kids have a built-in "activity stat" that regulates how much energy they expend – unlike adults who are more inclined toward deliberate choices about energy expenditure. Yet this implies that kids who exercised at school might remain less active at home.
Michael Long, lead author of the new study and post-doctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and his colleagues analyzed data on children who wore accelerometers on their waists to measure time and intensity of activity spent moving. Overall, 2,548 children participated in the study and wore the monitors for about six days.
Young children, ages 6-11, spent about 86 minutes per day exercising at a moderate to vigorous pace, while kids ages 12-19 spent 41 minutes engaged in this type of activity.
For each extra minute that the kids exercised, they were found to rack up slightly more than an extra minute of exercise for each day. This showed that children who were more active did not reduce activity outside of school to "offset" the extra exercise they got in school.
"We didn't find any evidence youth were compensating for higher levels of activity during school hours [with less] activity outside of the school period," Long told Reuters Health. "What this argues for is we should be increasing activity in schools."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that kids get at least one hour of physical exercise during the day, yet fewer than one-third of students seem to be meeting that goals and about 17 percent of children are obese.
Results of the study are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.