The week in silly studies: Inactive kids need a lifestyle change, not seven minutes of exercise

Thomas Bink

Let's file this one under "burying the lead."

Men's Health and ABC Action News this week reported on a study from the University of Manitoba that touted that just seven minutes of vigorous activity per day was enough to ensure kids are on the healthy path of lower blood pressure and lower body mass.

The key, the articles state, is that the exercise has to be at least as intense as a jog, including things like basketball or Ultimate Frisbee. Light activities like walking just won't cut it. They go on to advocate different activities kids could engage in to get that seven-minute boost.

The real question, however, is just how lazy our kids have gotten that they actually have to schedule seven minutes of vigorous activities per day. Not too long ago, kids spent the bulk of their growing years riding bikes, playing sports or roughhousing with their friends. Now, apparently, the only exercise kids are getting is walking to the fridge from the computer or the TV. And that's the real story here.

[ Last week's silly study: Skipping makes people happier ]

According to the actual report, subjects in the study spent 70% of their time "performing sedentary activities" — like watching TV — while 23% of their time was spent on light physical activity and only 0.6% spent doing vigorous physical activity.

Now that's scary.

"Our research showed children don't need a lot of intense physical activity to get the health benefits of exercise — seven minutes or more of vigorous physical activity was all that was required," said Richard Lewanczuk of the University of Alberta in a statement. "But the seven minutes had to be intense to prevent weight gain, obesity and its adverse health consequences. And most kids weren't getting that."

The study involved 600 children between the ages of 9 and 17.

So while it's nice to know that kids can maintain a minimum health level by performing seven minutes of vigorous activity every day, the fact that they're currently spending less than 1% of their day playing full-out is the real story.

Maybe it's time for parents to turn off the TVs, close the laptops and let kids be kids again. Apparently, their lives may depend on it.

The week in silly studies is a feature that appears each Tuesday.
It is not intended to mock real science.

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