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Physical activity helps reduce inflammation in kids, study finds

Experts say the findings reinforce the benefits of kids staying active

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Photo (c) Images By Tang Ming Tung - Getty Images
Staying physically active is an important part of all consumers’ routines, but findings from a recent study suggest that it may be even more important for kids.

Researchers from the University of Jyväskylä have found that kids who participate in regular physical activity can experience several health benefits, including reducing low-grade inflammation throughout their bodies. 

“Our study showed that children who were physically more active and less sedentary had a healthier inflammatory profile than children who were physically less active,” said researcher Dr. Eero Haapala. “However, our results suggest that the positive effects of high levels of vigorous physical activity and low levels of sedentary time on low-grade inflammation are partly explained by their positive effects on body composition.” 

Benefits of staying active

The researchers analyzed data from nearly 400 children between the ages of six and eight who were enrolled in the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) study. The team looked at several different health measures -- including diet quality, physical activity, and low-grade inflammation -- and assessed both blood samples and activity monitor data. 

Participants with the lowest physical activity levels were at an increased risk of several health conditions. In contrast, kids who regularly engaged in physical activity were able to enjoy several health benefits. The researchers found that inflammation levels were highest in kids who were less physically active. Participants who struggled to be physically active also tended to eat more unhealthy foods and had higher body mass indices (BMIs). 

The findings are concerning because these risk factors put kids at an increased risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. Because there is such a strong connection between lifestyle choices and disease risk, it’s important to know that being more active can help to reduce these risks. 

“The key message from our results is that increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary time are key in preventing low-grade inflammation since childhood,” Dr. Happala said. “They would be particularly important for overweight children.” 

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