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Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2004 Jun;14(3):143-9.

Physical activity as a preventive measure for coronary heart disease risk factors in early childhood.

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Department of Physical Education, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland.


Physical activity causes acute physiological and long-term adaptive responses in the body. It is a protective factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) in adults. It has been assumed that children younger than 8 years of age may be in general active enough and there would be hardly any relationships between physical activity and CHD risk factors in early childhood. One hundred and fifty-five children (age 4-7 years) participated in this physical activity study during three consecutive years. Physical activity was examined twice a year with a special-purpose physical activity diary. CHD risk factors were measured during annual health care visits in the Specific Turku Coronary Risk-Factor Intervention Project (STRIP). We found that physical activity was related to CHD risk factors in early childhood. Among the girls, low-activity playing was related to a higher BMI. At the mean age of 6 years, high-activity playing was negatively related to serum total cholesterol (r=-0.32*) and positively to the high-density lipoprotein (HDL)/total cholesterol ratio (r=0.37**). The negative relationship between high-activity playing and triglycerides was highest (r=-0.32*) at the mean age of six. Among 4-year-old boys, playing outdoors correlated positively with serum HDL cholesterol concentration (r=0.29*) and the HDL/total ratio (r=0.35**). At the age of 5 years, physically active playing correlated positively with systolic blood pressure (r=0.25*). Playing outdoors and high-activity playing already have important health-maintaining effects in 4-7-year-old children. These positive effects differ between genders. (*P<0.05 **P<0.01).

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