Keeping children active and fit is more likely to improve their health in later life, researchers have said.

A collaborative team say by ensuring young people remain active during their childhood reduces the risk of low-grade inflammation.

If people experience inflammation over a long-term basis that can significantly increase their chances of developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Eero Haapala, from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä, said: “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.

“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.”

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and the University of Cambridge were also involved in the study.

Using data from the ongoing Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study, they looked at the links between exercise, sedentary behaviour, diet, body fat and low-grade inflammation among nearly 400 children aged six to eight.

A movement sensor and a heart rate monitor was used to track physical activity and biomarkers from blood samples were used to measure low-grade inflammation.

They found the least active children had unhealthier inflammatory profiles, putting them at risk of various illnesses as they get older.

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

The findings have been published in the European Journal of Sport Science.

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