A new Canadian study has found that adding just 7 minutes of intense physical activity to a child’s regular schedule can have major benefits when it comes to protecting their long-term heart health. The study followed 605 Alberta children aged 9 to 17, and found that a daily burst of intense activity just 7 minutes long dramatically reduced both blood pressure and body weight. High blood pressure and unhealthy body weights are two major risk factors for heart attacks, strokes and heart disease.
The study’s principal researcher, Jonathon McGavock likened intense physical activity to a beneficial heart drug, drawing parallels between increasingly intense activities and stronger doses of a beneficial drug. The harder the activity, the greater the benefits the participants enjoyed.
“If we look at physical activity as the magic bullet or drug that is going to have health benefits, such as reducing the risk of overweight or reducing the risk of high blood pressure, a higher intensity is like taking a higher dose of that drug,” said McGavock of the study.
“It says that the more intense the exercise is, the less likely [youth] are to be overweight or to have high blood pressure, compared to (those doing) lower-intensity exercise.”
Activities which were encouraged in the study included sprinting, swimming, cycling and soccer. The study concluded that short bursts of intense activity were better than extended periods of lighter or moderate activity.