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Cardiorespiratory fitness in children and sedentary lifestyle

A recent study found that increased sedentary time and lower levels of physical activity can lead to a decrease in the regulation of the heart, lungs, and vasculature by the cardiac autonomic nervous system.

Lub-Dub, Lub-Dub, Lub-Dub. It is the sound the heart makes 24 hours a day, for every day of your life. As it pumps blood throughout the body, the nutrients we eat and the oxygen we breathe travel through the cardiovascular system, so that every cell in the body can benefit from its actions and survive. Therefore, maintaining a good relationship between the heart, lungs, and vasculature is important, especially during physical activity and development. The regulation of these, and how well it is regulated, depends on the cardiac autonomic system; which allows our heart rate and vasculature to adjust to the various levels of physical activity, including the lack there-of.

Cardiorespiratory fitness, the ability of the heart and lungs to transport oxygen to muscle during physical activity, is important for the development of the human body and its ability to sustain our actions. The lack of this, especially during the critical developmental periods of our lives, can lead to future health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

In a recent Finnish study, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, 377 children from Kuopio, Finland were studied to determine the relationship between physical activity, sedentary time, heart rate variability, cardiorespiratory fitness, and its effects on the cardiac autonomic system. The participants, ranging from ages six to nine, underwent maximal exercise tests and heart rate variability assessments at the Institute of Biomedicine in Finland. They were then monitored for four days for sedentary time and heart rate while carrying out their regular routines.

The results revealed that higher levels of physical activity, lower levels of sedentary time, and higher cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with better cardiac autonomic nervous system function. Of these, cardiorespiratory fitness for boys and stationary time for girls was the strongest determinant of cardiac autonomic system function. This suggests that decreased physical activity and more sedentary time can lead to decreased regulation of the heart, lungs, and vasculature.

Overall, these findings suggest that physical activity is vital for the proper functioning of our cardiovascular system and improved cardiorespiratory fitness from day-to-day.


Written by P. Sukumar



  1. Veijalainen, A., et al. (2019). Associations of physical activity, sedentary time, and cardiorespiratory fitness with heart rate variability in 6- to 9-year old children: the PANIC study. European Journal of Applied Physiology.
  2. Veijalainen, A. (2019, October 02). Physical activity and good fitness improve cardiac regulation in children. EurekAlert!

Image by Marzena P. from Pixabay



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