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How Sitting Still Can Be Harmful to Kids

The Short of It

"Sit still! Stop fidgeting!" How many times have you said these words to your child? Well, take note, moms and dads: The findings of a new study may cause you to think twice before encouraging your kids to stay seated for long periods of time.

The Lowdown

We already know a sedentary lifestyle can be harmful to adults' health. But sitting still for too long may also harm kids, according to a Canadian study published in the journal Experimental Physiology.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia's School of Health and Exercise Sciences looked at a very small sample of girls between the ages of 7 and 10 to see how staying seated for long periods of time affected blood vessels in their legs. Kids who sat in a beanbag chair for three hours watching movies and playing video games experienced a 33 percent decrease in the expansion of the artery in the thigh. But when the girls got up to exercise for 10 minutes every hour, the artery showed no loss in flexibility.

"We now know that children are spending longer and longer periods of time being sedentary. Five to eight hours per day is quite normal in terms of sedentary time. It's really important to start to understand the actual effect that has on the body," said lead researcher Alison McManus. She also commented she didn't expect to see sitting have such a big effect on kids.

The implication of McManus's findings is that if kids are sitting in the same position for a long time every day, say at school, or on the couch in front of the television, their long-term risk for heart disease and other illnesses associated with a sedentary lifestyle will go up.

The Upshot

McManus hopes schools will take action to get kids moving more in the classroom, even if it is just for a few minutes each hour.

For me, this study is timely as winter weather is fast approaching and my children will be spending much less time outside. I don't mind if they have down time after school, but kids, mom's going to be getting a little drill sergeant on you. "Get up! 15 jumping jacks each!"

What's your take?

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