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A recent study has demonstrated that children with higher levels of physical activity are more likely to sustain an increased level of physical activity through to adolescence. Early intervention programs, such as the Healthy Start program could be beneficial in building healthy habits that children carry through life.

While we are all aware of the benefits of physical activity, in particular for children, the majority of children do not meet the recommended goal of at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Organized sports is one way that physical activity can be encouraged in children. A recent study has investigated childhood participation in organized sports, considered to be moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA), to determine whether children’s participation encourages development of healthy habits that continue later in life. In addition, some studies have demonstrated that increased television viewing is associated with lower levels of physical activity. For this reason the study also aimed to determine TV viewing habits and trends in physical activity.

Participants for the study were derived from an ongoing study of bone health, the Iowa Bone Development Study. The participants were evaluated between 1998 and 2013, at the ages of 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 years. Every 6 months the participants filled in a sports participation and television viewing questionnaire. For the purposes of the study, organized sports was considered to be team or individual sports which were either school-based or run by sporting clubs. The types of sports included baseball, softball, basketball, cheerleading, dance, football, golf, gymnastics, tumbling, ice hockey, figure skating, martial arts, track and field running, soccer, swimming, tennis, badminton, racquetball, volleyball, lacrosse, and wrestling.

The results of the study showed that overall, children tended to decrease their physical activity from childhood to young adulthood. It also demonstrated that children who are inactive at a young age remain inactive through to adolescence. The study also demonstrated that children who were considered to be consistently active also watched less TV. Their TV viewing habits decreased with age, while their physical activity remained high.

While children who participated in organized sports eventually discontinue their involvement, the authors suggest that organized sports may be an important way to increase physical activity. Creating good habits early in childhood can be beneficial in later life. While the results regarding the association between increased TV time and reduced physical activity were not clear in this study, the authors suggest that further investigation of this association would be beneficial.

The results of the study demonstrate that healthy habits developed early in childhood have lasting impact. ‘Healthy Start’ is a Canadian program that is aimed at increasing healthy eating and physical activity in early learning centres, childcare centres, and pre-kindergartens. The Université de Sherbrooke in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan are currently enrolling participants for a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the Healthy Start program at improving physical activity and healthy eating in pre-school children. The study will measure levels of physical activity, physical literacy, and dietary intake in children involved in the Healthy Start program, compared with children who are not involved in the program. The researchers aim to enroll 735 participants between the ages of 3 and 5 years who are currently attending a pre-school program. The study will provide valuable information on the effectiveness of early intervention programs on healthy lifestyle parameters, potentially reducing the occurrence of childhood obesity.



Kwon, S, Janz, KF, Letuchy, EM, Burns, TL, Levy, SM. “Developmental Trajectories of Physical Activity, Sports, and Television Viewing During Childhood to Young Adulthood :  Iowa Bone Development Study” JAMA Pediatr. Published online May 18, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0327

Healthy Start Website Healthy Start to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Healthy Eating in Early Childcare Centres” Available from: Last Accessed: May 29, 2015.

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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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