Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill evaluated nearly 400 seven- to ten- year-old elementary school children to find out how much active play they were getting and whether they had good aerobic fitness. They also took other measurements, including height, weight, body fat, blood pressure, etc. They checked these same children seven years later, when they were all teens in high school. The results were sobering.
Almost 5 percent of the teens had already developed metabolic syndrome, a serious early form of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes that used to be a disease of middle age adults. Kids who were inactive in elementary school (less than 20 minutes each day of moderate intensity active play) were more than five times more likely to end up with metabolic syndrome as teens.
How much kids play now may affect their odds of heart disease for the rest of their lives. I recommend at least 1-2 hours of active play for kids each day, both to enjoy childhood now and to help them continue to thrive as they grow.
McMurray RG, Bangdiwala SI, Harrell JS, Amorim LD. Adolescents with metabolic syndrome have a history of low fitness and physical activity levels Dynamic Medicine 2008, 7:5