When is the last time your child was red-faced and sweaty from play? A new report from the American Heart Association says that today’s children are 15 percent less fit than their parents. Learn what you can do to increase your child’s fitness.
Decreased Fitness Increases Heart Disease Risk
The study looked across the globe at 25 million children’s endurance and the time it took them to run a mile, a common fitness milestone. The data show a 5 percent decline per decade over the last 46 years in cardiovascular endurance and fitness, the type of fitness that’s associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
This decline is not a result of any one cause. It’s likely that factors such as increased weight/obesity, increased media usage, a perceived danger in unsupervised outdoor play, the “snack culture,” availability of drinkable calories, and decreased parental fitness among many other issues impact children’s healthy behaviors.
Be a Role Model
The variety of factors means there’s not likely one solution to this problem; it also
indicates a lot of small changes will make a big difference in fitness. The most important thing parents can do to promote heart-healthy fitness is to practice it themselves. Children learn by observing others around them.
Tips by Age and Ability
- Young children and preschoolers can take trips to the park, play an active game of tag or hide and seek, or ride through the neighborhood on a tricycle to promote cardiovascular health.
- Elementary School-age Children will benefit from parents helping them to identify what sports and activities they’re suited for.
- Teens may need special guidance in how to balance the demands of school work, friends, technology, and the need for exercise.
- Natural athletes should be encouraged to try new sports.
- Less coordinated kids might enjoy bike riding, swimming, martial arts, or walking the family dog.
Cold and inclement weather presents a challenge to many people, both children and adults, but a planned activity in the winter can counteract our tendency to eat more and be more sluggish. Sled riding, an impromptu snow ball fight, or other winter wonderland fun all count toward the recommended one-hour per day of activities.
Benjamin Franklin espoused that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This is as true today as it was in Franklin’s time. Check out www.fitness.gov for more healthy living tips.