TUESDAY, June 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Engaging in higher levels of physical activity in childhood is associated with better cardiovascular health indicators, according to a study published online June 11 in Pediatrics.

Nicole A. Proudfoot, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues conducted a prospective, observational cohort study involving 418 3- to 5-year-olds with annual assessments for three years. Over seven days, total physical activity (TPA) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were measured using accelerometry. Cardiovascular health indicators included cardiovascular fitness, resting arterial stiffness, and seated systolic blood pressure.

The researchers found that TPA and MVPA had main effects on treadmill time and heart rate recovery. TPA had a main effect on pulse wave velocity and an interaction between MVPA and time. The effect of an interaction between TPA and time was not significant for carotid β stiffness index, but there was a significant interaction between MVPA and time. For girls, MVPA was associated with a slower rate of change in systolic blood pressure.

“Engagement in physical activity results in greater cardiovascular fitness, better autonomic function, and lower arterial stiffness during early childhood,” the authors write. “More intense physical activity (i.e., MVPA) provides additional benefits because it is associated with slowing the progressive stiffening of arteries, which is a marker of atherosclerosis.”

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