Many people use exercise as a way to achieve their goal weight, but it's important to remember that physical activity is crucial for good health no matter what you weigh. It helps build muscle and bone and it can even work as a form of stress-relief in a busy day.
Children are at an especially vulnerable stage of life, where attitudes towards exercise can be entrenched for good. A new study has emphasised that even children at a healthy weight level should be encouraged to enjoy regular exercise.
A FITKids study from the University of Illinois compared 220 kids aged 8-9 years old over a period of nine months. Each child was assigned to either a physical activity intervention or a control group. The first group did 70 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity five days each week, with the researchers measuring cardiorespiratory fitness, fat mass, abdominal fat tissue and other factors.
At the end of the program, the study had achieved some clear results. Children in the physical activity intervention group had better cardiovascular fitness, less overall body fat and had less fat stored around their abdomen. According to postdoctoral researcher Naiman Khan, this last measurement is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.
In contrast, the children in the control group experienced the opposite in their results. While they didn't record any noticeable changes in cardiorespiratory fitness for this group, researchers did find an increase in percent fat mass, percent central fat mass and abdominal fat tissue.
"So the weight of healthy-weight children who don't exercise doesn't just remain stable," Mr Khan said.
"Normal-weight kids who don't exercise do gain an excess amount of weight for their age, and if they become overweight, the tendency is to store excess fat in their abdomens."
If you have young children of your own, establishing safe exercise habits early in life can support your children to have better health as they grow.
In Australia, the Department of Health recommends all children aged between 5 and 12 should have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. This should be a mix of aerobic activity as well as exercises that support strong bones and muscles – this includes weight-bearing exercises such as running or dancing.
Better health means looking after your body as best as you can. However, for any extra treatments or medical services it pays to have your health insurance organised.
Finding the right policy can give you peace of mind about your family's healthcare needs.