Higher aerobic fitness in childhood, independent of abdominal fat, can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in early adulthood, a study says.
“While a number of studies have found that higher levels of aerobic fitness can substantially reduce the cardiovascular disease risks associated with adult obesity, few studies have looked to see whether this might also be true regarding childhood obesity,” said the study’s lead author Michael Schmidt, associate professor at University of Georgia College of Education in the US.
The study used data collected as part of a 20-year follow-up of 1,792 Australians who participated in a national childhood health and fitness survey at age seven to 15 years in 1985.
Data collection included a one-mile run to assess cardiorespiratory fitness and waist circumference measures to assess abdominal fat in childhood.
As adults, participants attended one of 34 study clinics held across Australia where they underwent a range of additional health and fitness assessments.
The researchers found that higher aerobic fitness in childhood, independent of abdominal fat, reduced the risk of developing metabolic syndrome in early adulthood by 36 percent compared to those with lower childhood fitness levels.
Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of key cardiovascular disease risk factors and is associated with an increased risk of subsequent coronary artery disease, stroke and Type-2 diabetes.
The study’s results, published in the online edition of the International Journal of Obesity, also support the importance of staying physically active beyond childhood.
“We found that participants who had low fitness levels in childhood but increased their relative fitness level by adulthood had a markedly lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome than those who remained low fit,” study co-author Erika Rees, doctoral student at University of Georgia noted.
“And this was especially true for those with higher levels of abdominal fat as children,” Rees said.