This article has a correction

Please see: Br J Sports Med 2011;45:1063

Br J Sports Med 45:871-876 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090333
  • Reviews

Physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors in children

  1. Andrew Hills5
  1. 1Department of Exercise Epidemiology, Center for Research in Childhood Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  4. 4Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
  5. 5Griffith University and Mater Medical Research Institute, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Lars Bo Andersen, Department of Exercise Epidemiology, Center for Research in Childhood Health, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark; lboandersen{at}
  • Accepted 20 June 2011
  • Published Online First 26 July 2011


Background A number of recent systematic reviews have resulted in changes in international recommendations for children's participation in physical activity (PA) for health. The World Health Authority (WHO) has recently released new recommendations. The WHO still recommends 60 min of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), but also emphasises that these minutes should be on top of everyday physical activities. Everyday physical activities total around 30 min of MVPA in the quintile of the least active children, which means that the new recommendations constitute more activity in total compared with earlier recommendations.

Objective To summarise evidence justifying new PA recommendation for cardiovascular health in children.

Methods The results of recent systematic reviews are discussed and supplemented with relevant literature not included in these reviews. PubMed was searched for the years 2006–2011 for additional topics not sufficiently covered by the reviews.

Results PA was associated with lower blood pressure and a healthier lipid blood profile in children. The association was stronger when a composite risk factor score was analysed, and the associations between physical fitness and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors were even stronger. Muscle strength and endurance exercise each had an effect on blood lipids and insulin sensitivity even if the effect was smaller for muscle strength than for aerobic exercise. New evidence suggests possible effects of PA on C-reactive protein.

Conclusion There is accumulating evidence that PA can have beneficial effects on the risk factors of CVD in children. Public health policy to promote PA in children, especially the most sedentary children, may be a key element to prevent the onset of CVD later in the children's lives.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.