Children and Cardiovascular Health

November 21, 2013

We have watched with dismay in the last 30 years as the rates of childhood obesity more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. Now we find there is more to this story. Recently published studies have found that kids are about fifteen percent less aerobically fit than their parents were at the same age! The findings of this research was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013 in Dallas, TX. For this large study, researchers analyzed 50 separate studies that concentrated on running and fitness between 1964 and the present that included more than 25 million children who ranged in ages from 9 to 17 years-old in 28 different countries. Timed runs, which were either a set amount of time or set distance, were used as the measure of cardiovascular strength and endurance. The findings? Over the 46 years during which these studies were conducted, children's cardiovascular endurance has decreased approximately five percent in every decade. This decrease in cardiovascular strength is accompanied by higher obesity rates. Along with sedentary lifestyles, researchers concluded that between 30 and 60 percent of the decline is directly the result of rising obesity. This decline is made evident by the finding that it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile now than it did in the 1980s! How did this happen? Inactivity is the main culprit. Children no longer walk to school. Communities are designed without sidewalks, which discourages walking. Schools no longer offer daily physical education. Finally, our kids are sitting in front of the television or computer screens rather than becoming involved in physical activities. This is a very serious situation, and the lack of a robust cardiovascular system can follow a child throughout his or her entire life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some important guidelines.
  • Kids should exercise for at least 60 minutes a day, most of which should be aerobic exercise, such as walking, running, swimming, gymnastic or bicycling. A minimum of 3 days per week should include vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
  • Include muscle strengthening exercises, such as gymnastics, pull-ups or push-ups, at least 3 days per week as part of your child's 60 or more minutes of fitness activity.
  • Don't forget bone-strengthening activities! Try jumping rope, gymnastics, running or hiking, also at least 3 days per week.
  • Stretching offers more flexibility and help protect your child against injuries. Include side-stretches or toe-touching bends or go for martial arts, dance or gymnastics.
Give your children the gifts of a lifetime ... help them pursue active and healthy lifestyles!

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