Sedentary Kids at Risk for Heart Enlargement, New Study Finds

Repeated heart scans show sedentary children face an increased risk for heart enlargement, but light physical activity appears to be an effective antidote.

Too much sedentary time may cause a child's heart to enlarge, but researchers say there is a way to reduce that risk. In a new study, they followed nearly 1,700 children from the age of 11 until 24 years. At the start, the participants spent about 6 hours a day in sedentary activities, but by the end, they were sitting around for 9 hours. This increase was associated with progressive heart enlargement from adolescence to young adulthood, according to repeated heart scans.

The findings were consistent regardless of obesity or elevated blood pressure. However, during follow-up, just 3 to 4 hours of daily light physical activity was found to reduce the excess heart mass by 49%. Higher levels of light activity were also linked with better heart function.

The lead researcher emphasizes the need for a paradigm shift in how we view childhood sedentariness, as the mounting evidence is pointing at a ticking time bomb. He advocates for light exercise as an effective antidote and recommends activities like walking the dog, playing on the playground, biking to school, and casual soccer or Frisbee.

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