Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards

THURSDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- Daily exercise provides cardiovascular benefits even during the preteen years, reveals a new German study.

It found that schoolchildren, who averaged 11 years old, lowered their blood pressure, improved their levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and triglycerides and were less likely to be obese if they regularly participated in a supervised exercise program that included at least 15 minutes of endurance training. The research was conducted in the city of Leipzig.

"Even from these first-year results, we can say that regular physical activity has a significant beneficial effect on body composition, exercise capacity and cardiovascular risk markers in children," investigator Claudia Walther, of the Heart Centre of the University of Leipzig, said in a news release issued by European Society of Cardiology. The findings were presented last week at a conference in Stockholm, Sweden, sponsored by the society.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 188 children to participate in the daily exercise program or follow the school's regular curriculum of two weekly sports lessons. A year later, the percentage of overweight and obese children in the daily exercise group had fallen from 13% to 9% while it had risen from 11% to 13% in the group that did only the standard sports programs.

Although the researchers had expected improvement among those in the daily exercise group, Walther said they were surprised by the "significant reduction in the overall prevalence of obesity or excess weight."

"It's so easy," she said. "All it needs is a little more time allocated to exercise lessons. The teachers are there, they supervise, and they all seem enthusiastic. If we can include daily exercise in the school curriculum, I'm sure we'll see an effect."

Kids who participated in the study will be followed for the next two decades to evaluate whether daily exercise during their youth affects their health in later years, Walther said.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, May 8, 2009

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