Physically active children are more likely to keep diabetes and heart disease at bay, a new study reveals.
The study, led by researchers Glenn McConell and Mary Wlodek from Victoria and Melbourne Universities, tested whether exercise could re-programme rats predisposed to diabetes and heart disease owing to their lower birth weight.
"Those born small are programmed for a higher chance of disease later in life because of their underdeveloped heart and pancreas, but we think you can re-programme yourself by exercising early in life," said McConell, the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism reported.
In the trials on rats born small, those that exercised from five to nine weeks of age showed a small improvement in organ function at the end of that month, but remarkably, six months later their organs were the same as the healthy control group, a university statement said.
Another group of born small rats were not exercised and showed no improvement. McConell said a nine-week old rat correlated roughly with a five-year-old child and a six-month-old rat with a young adult person.
"We think this means more activity for children and more physical education in school could really help set them up for better health later in life and even help those predisposed to diabetes and heart disease to re-program themselves in time to avoid it," added McConell.