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Taking three-minute breaks to walk in the middle of watching a television programme or other sedentary activity can improve the ability of children to maintain blood sugar levels compared to continuously sitting, a new study says.
A sedentary lifestyle can put children at risk of developing pediatric obesity and metabolic health problems such as diabetes.
"Interrupting a long period of sitting with a few minutes of moderate activity can have short-term benefits on a child's metabolism," said the study's senior author Jack Yanovski from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), US National Institutes of Health.
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"While we know getting 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity exercise each day improves children's health and metabolism, small behavioural changes like taking short walking breaks can also yield some benefits," Yanovski noted.
The study examined sedentary behaviour and metabolism in 28 normal-weight children who were between seven and 11 years old.
On two different days, the children either sat continuously for three hours or took three-minute breaks to walk on a treadmill every half hour during that period.
The study participants had their blood sugar and insulin levels tested before and after the experiment.
When children took breaks to walk, their blood sugar and insulin levels were lower than when they sat continuously.
The findings indicate the children's bodies were better able to maintain blood sugar levels when their sitting was interrupted.
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"Sustained sedentary behaviour after a meal diminishes the muscles' ability to help clear sugar from the bloodstream," first author Britni Belcher from US National Cancer Institute explained.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).