Kids and Type 1: The Health Benefits of Adding 1000 Steps

It’s so important for children with type 1 diabetes to be physically active, yet many engage in less activity than the recommended level for kids in their age group.

Being too sedentary puts these children at greater risk for diabetes complications, including early signs of cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis, or a build up of arterial plaque.

More Is Better

Researchers looking into this issue found that 55 percent of the children they studied with type 1 diabetes took fewer than 10,000 steps* each day. They also noted an association existed between the children’s average daily number of steps and the thickness of their arteries.

However, the researchers discovered when these children increased their activity level by adding just 1,000 more steps to each day there was a measurable reduction in the thickness of their arterial walls.

"In the children who had extra physical activity, we also saw reductions in weight, blood pressure, and triglycerides, which indicates an overall reduction in risk of heart disease," said lead research author Dr. Alexia Pena. “The more steps they do, the better.”

Adding More Steps

A lack of physical activity is not just an issue for kids with type 1 diabetes. It’s estimated just one in three children are physically active every day, and that kids and teens average four to seven hours a day using computers, TVs, phones, and other digital devices.

Yet, for children with diabetes the risk of health complications makes having an active lifestyle especially imperative, so here are a few tips for helping kids add more steps to their day:

  • It may take experimenting and outside the box thinking to find activities a non-athletic child enjoys, but with enough patience, trial, and error something is bound click. It might be rock climbing, dancing, martial arts, hiking, or golf.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids be limited to one or two hours of screen time each day.
  • Since kids love to spend time with their friends, inviting one or two of them to ride bikes, play tennis, go swimming, or spend time at a playground can be motivating.
  • It helps to make children’s physical activities part of the family schedule or routine. Saturday morning can be, for instance, a time your child expects to roller blade, or go to karate class. A couple nights each week the family might enjoy a neighborhood walk, or shooting some hoops at a nearby park.
  • Let your kids take turns choosing a weekend activity for their self or the family. This gives them a sense of control and ownership over their well-being. You might end up at a batting cage one week, or canoeing down a river the next.
  • Keep some active toys on hand to encourage kids to play outside such as a bike, jump rope, basketball, beach ball, soccer ball, hula-hoops, and Frisbees.

Naturally, all our parental encouragement will be for naught unless we practice what we preach and model an active lifestyle for our kids. Doing so is likely one of the best gifts we can give our children, not only because it influences their behavior, but because it will optimize our own health, mood, and energy level.

Source: Science Daily; Healthy Children; WebMD; Active
Photo credit: Eric Lumsden

*For an average sized adult 1,000 steps is about a half mile.

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