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</P> New research is providing another reason to get kids up and moving. A recent Australian study found that regular exercise can reverse the early stages of heart disease in obese children.

Start young for better health

New research is providing another reason to get kids up and moving. A recent Australian study found that regular exercise can reverse the early stages of heart disease in obese children.

Wait a minute! Children with precursors to heart disease? Yes. It's unfortunate, but true. Due to increasingly sedentary lifestyles and easy access to processed foods high in fat and sugar, we now have an epidemic on our hands. In fact, even some preschoolers are showing signs of heart disease.

The encouraging news is that there are ways to stop the spread of obesity in kids. The Australian study took a look at 35 obese children between the ages of six and 16. Each student was tested for the beginnings of clogged arteries and many were found to have the early signs of heart disease. A regular activity program of weight training for teens and active play outside for younger children were then put in place. After only eight weeks of regular, exercise blood vessel function was found to improve significantly. Upon cessation of exercise, and testing two months following, all improvements gained during the eight-week exercise program had reverted back.

This indicates that exercise plays an important role in preventing and reversing heart disease in children, but kids have to be encouraged to make a long-term commitment to an active lifestyle in order to reap the full benefits.

Encouragement goes a long way

The Obesity Research Center at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City studied the response of youth to exercise when subject to criticism about their body weight. The researchers selected this topic because, although national health guidelines encourage increased physical activity in children, obesity is on the rise at a younger age than ever. Therefore, the team set out to gather data on variables that affect a child's decision to be active or sedentary.

Five hundred seventy-six children between grades five and eight completed a questionnaire inquiring about physical activity patterns, history of weight criticism, and their personal coping skills. While those better able to cope with criticism had a higher likelihood to exercise than children with fewer coping skills, the overall results of the study weren't surprising. Children who were subject to weight criticism by family and peers had negative attitudes toward exercise and reported low activity levels.

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