With the advent of computer games and a range of gadgets and devices, many children today live sedentary lives known to have short and long term effects on mental and physical health.

Findings of a new study, however, hinted that interrupting children's long period of sedentary activity for short intervals of exercise may help prevent the development of a range of diseases including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular illnesses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than one third of children in the U.S. have weight problems with the average child spending about six hours daily sitting or lying down, a habit that can place them at increased risks for developing unwanted health conditions.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that children who take at least three minutes to walk every half hour while engaged in sedentary activities can improve their blood sugar, which is crucial to maintaining health and metabolism.

Too much blood sugar can result in Type 2 diabetes. It can also cause blurry vision, damage blood vessels and nerves as well as lead to a number of chronic diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular illnesses.

"We know that 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity benefits children's health," said Jack Yanovski, from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "It can be difficult to fit longer stretches of physical activity into the day. Our study indicates that even small activity breaks could have a substantial impact on children's long-term health."

For the study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) on Aug. 27, Yanovski and colleagues involved 28 children who were assigned in either of two groups. Those in the first group remained seated for three hours doing things that kept them mostly sedentary such as reading or watching TV. The children in the other group, on the other hand, took three minutes to walk on a treadmill every 30 minutes.

The children's blood sugar and insulin levels were measured prior and after sitting and walking and this revealed that those taking walking breaks lowered their blood sugar and insulin levels.

The children had seven percent lower blood sugar levels on the day they walked compared with the day they were continuously sedentary. They also saw a 32 percent reduction in insulin level. The children's blood levels of free fatty acid, high levels of which is tied to type 2 diabetes were likewise found to be lower on the day they took walking breaks.

Photo: Natesh Ramasamy | Flickr

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