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Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2015 May;22(5):656-64. doi: 10.1177/2047487314524869. Epub 2014 Feb 13.

Effect of physical activity on vascular characteristics in young children.

Author information

  • 1University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands University of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia
  • 2University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  • 3VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 4University of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia.



Physical activity has long been proposed as an important modifiable cardiovascular risk factor in adults. We assessed whether physical activity already has an effect on childhood vasculature.


In the Wheezing-Illnesses-Study-in-Leidsche-Rijn birth cohort, we performed vascular ultrasound to measure carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) and functional properties (distensibility, elastic modulus) at 5 and 8 years of age. Child typical physical activities were inquired using a questionnaire completed by parents. Linear regression was used with physical activity level, expressed as a standardized value of time-weighted metabolic equivalent (MET) as the independent variable and vascular properties as dependent variables with further confounder adjustment and evaluation for possible body mass index and sex effect modifications.


In 595 5-year-old children and in 237 of those who had reached the age of 8 years, we did not find statistically significant associations between total time-weighted MET and each vascular parameter, neither in pooled nor stratified analysis. However, sport activities were associated with thinner cIMT (-3.20 µm/SD, 95% CI -6.34, -0.22, p = 0.04) at 5 years of age; a similar pattern was seen for organized sport. This effect was strongest in children in the highest body mass index tertile (-5.38 µm/SD, 95% CI -10.54, -0.19, p = 0.04). At the age of 8 years, higher sport level tended to be associated with higher vascular distensibility (2.64 × 10(3) kPa/SD, 95% CI -0.18, 5.45, p = 0.07) although this was not statistically significant.


Sport activity may have beneficial effects on arteries of young children, particularly those with higher relative body weight.


Carotid intima–media thickness; child; physical activity; vascular stiffness

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