More sleep could make up for kids’ overindulgence during school holidays, as new research from the University of South Australia shows the same drop in body mass index can be achieved with extra sleep or by additional exercises.
This striking new finding is part of a study that shows how children can achieve equivalent physical and mental health benefits by choosing different activity tradeoffs over the course of the 24-hour day.
Conducted in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and supported by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the team examined the optimal balance between children’s physical activity, sleep and inactivity during the 24-hour day to to better inform tailor-made lifestyle choices.
On a minute-by-minute basis, moderate to vigorous physical exercise has been found to be 2 to 6 times more powerful than sleep or physical inactivity.
Although exercise has a greater and faster impact on physical health and well-being, children may be able to achieve the same 7.4% reduction in body mass index (BMI). in:
- another 17 minutes of exercise (moderate to vigorous exercise) OR
- sleep an additional 52 minutes OR
- reduce their sitting or sedentary time by an additional 56 minutes.
Likewise, children can significantly improve their mental health by:
- exercise 35 minutes more (moderate to vigorous exercise), OR
- sleep 68 extra minutes OR
- reduce their sitting or sedentary time by 54 minutes.
The study evaluated 1,179 children aged 11 to 12, from the Child Health CheckPoint Study cross-sectional. Physical well-being was measured by BMI, waist circumference and body fat; mental well-being was measured by self-reported responses on the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory.
Lead researcher Dr Dot Dumuid of UniSA says the findings offer options for busy families looking to make the most of their day.
“There are a lot of competing time demands in modern families – whether it’s after school soccer, music lessons, or just walking the family dog, finding time to tidy everything up in one day can be a challenge. “, explains Dr Dumuid.
“International guidelines suggest that children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep, 60 minutes of physical exercise, and no more than two hours of recreational screen time per day, but only seven percent of children regularly achieve these goals.
“With so many competing priorities and commitments, it helps to know which activities offer the best value for money.
“In this research, we calculated how much sleep, sedentary time, light exercise, and moderate to vigorous exercise were associated with the same improvements in mental health, physical health, and academic achievement.
“For families with very little time available, slight increases in moderate to vigorous exercise might be an option to improve children’s health and well-being; otherwise, a night earlier might also offer the same benefits. for health – what is important is the flexibility these results offer that makes them so valuable.
“Exploring the trade-offs between children’s activities is a promising way for families to make healthy choices that fit their regular family schedules.”
The Heart Foundation’s director of physical activity, Assistant Professor Trevor Shilton, said the Heart Foundation is happy to support such an innovative approach to investigating the physical health and mental well-being of children.
“This study confirms that physical activity is the fastest and most effective way to provide benefits for the physical health and mental well-being of children. But the results also provide flexibility for families, ”says Professor Shilton.
“Helping young people make healthy choices and helping families create an environment that supports them in these choices can improve their quality of life in the future, as well as reduce their risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.”