New research suggests that British South Asian kids are less active than black African-Caribbean and white European children of the same age.

The findings it is claimed could hold the key to explaining the higher levels of heart and circulatory disease and type 2 Diabetes amongst the South Asian population.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Wellcome Trust and National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI), may take us a step closer to understanding why British South Asians have increased risk of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and impaired glucose control in childhood and adolescence.

The Child Heart Health Study in England (CHASE study) assessed levels of physical activity in over 2000 children all aged between 9 and 10 years from Birmingham, London and Leicester.

Participants wore a small device around their waist which sensed and recorded the amount of activity and daily steps taken by each child and the amount of time spent doing sedentary, light, moderate and vigorous levels of activity.

British South Asian children were found to do the least amount of activity and spent longer periods in sedentary activities, such as playing computer games and watching television.

Only 54% of British South Asian children met the current recommended target of spending at least 60 minutes per day in moderate levels of activity. This compared with 70% of white European children and 69% of Black African Caribbean children.

Dr Christopher Owen, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at St. George’s, University of London who led the study said: “This is the first study to accurately assess ethnic differences in levels of activity amongst this age group and it shows that UK children of South Asian origin are less active overall than other children living in the UK. Increasing levels of physical activity in children of South Asian origin may be particularly important in helping to maintain their health in the longer term.”

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation said: “This study is another piece in the jigsaw in helping us to understand why British South Asians are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. We now need to explore how we can lessen their risk of these conditions by increasing exercise levels.

“The findings could be used to inform future physical activity programmes within the South Asian population and help to tackle the inequalities which exist between children to protect their future heart health.”