Public Release: 

Frequent breaks from sedentary behavior makes kids healthier

Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

OTTAWA, Canada - November 20, 2013 - Canadian kids spend more than half their waking hours engaged in sedentary behaviour--watching television, playing video games or just sitting around. Studies involving adult populations suggest that breaks in sedentary time are associated with reduced global health risks. Today these findings have been replicated in a study involving children between the ages of 8 and 11 as published in PLOS ONE.

"We already know that sitting too much is bad for kids," says Travis Saunders, who earned his PhD at the University of Ottawa and is a researcher at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute. "But now, for the first time, we have evidence that simply getting up more frequently is associated with better health in this age group."

Researchers looked at risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in children with a family history of obesity. They analyzed data taken from an existing QUALITY cohort study that included over 500 children living in Quebec. Using an accelerometer to gather data, the researchers studied all breaks in sedentary behaviour for these kids during a one week period.

Global health risk indicators were measured, including waist circumference, body mass index, fasting insulin, fasting glucose, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol and C-reactive proteins. Time spent at the computer and playing video games as well as television viewing during the 7-day period was self-reported.

"Increased screen time poses a persistent health risk for kids as a rule," continued Saunders. "But what's also interesting in this study is that video-gaming was associated with higher risk scores for boys whereas television viewing was linked to higher risk scores for girls."

This study suggests that frequent interruptions in children's sedentary time--or the number of times children got up, rather than the duration of the break--can have a positive impact on their health.

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The QUALITY cohort was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec. Saunders is supported by doctoral research awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Diabetes Association as well as an Excellence Scholarship from the University of Ottawa.

About the CHEO Research Institute:

The CHEO Research Institute coordinates the research activities of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and is affiliated with the University of Ottawa. Its three programs of research include molecular biomedicine, health information technology and evidence-to-practice research. Key themes include cancer, diabetes, obesity, mental health, emergency medicine, musculoskeletal health, electronic health information and privacy as well as genetics of rare diseases. The CHEO Research Institute makes discoveries today for healthier kids tomorrow. For more information, visit http://www.cheori.org.

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