Kids’ Couch Potato Ways Could Hurt Their Hearts, Says New Study

Let’s face it: our modern lifestyle has made it far too easy for us to sit around and stay sedentary rather than getting up and moving around. It’s a problem that affects people of all ages, but one area of concern is how a sedentary lifestyle affects the cardiovascular health of young children.

It might be surprising, but even children who are on average less than 10 years old can be at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) if they’re not getting enough physical activity. A study conducted by Swedish and Danish researchers revealed some eye-opening connections between inactivity and CVD risk factors in children – as much as 11% difference in composite CVD risk factor scores for kids with varying levels of physical activity.

The study’s findings

The researchers studied a group of over 220 children and found some significant differences between the boys and girls participating. In general, the boys were more physically active than the girls, getting an average of 10 more minutes of moderate activity and 4 more minutes of vigorous activity per day. As a result, they had a higher uptake of oxygen, which can be beneficial for cardiovascular health.

On the flip side, the girls in the study had higher body fat content and a higher resting heartbeat, both of which can be potential risk factors for developing CVD later in life. This highlights the importance of encouraging physical activity in both boys and girls from an early age.

Why this matters

One of the crucial takeaways from this study is that cardiovascular risk factors may indeed be cumulative. In other words, the more unhealthy habits a child develops early in life, the more those negative factors can build up and put them at a greater risk for CVD as they grow older.

Too often, adults don’t consider children to be at risk for health issues like CVD, thinking that these problems only develop later in life as a result of adult habits. The reality, however, is that the lifestyle choices we make for our children – and the habits they develop as a consequence – can have a significant impact on their future health.

It’s not just about getting kids to exercise more, either. Encouraging physical activity in children can also have other positive effects on their overall health and well-being. For example, physical activity can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and promote better sleep – two factors that can also contribute to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.

What can be done?

So, what can parents and caregivers do to help combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle on young children’s cardiovascular health? Here are a few ideas to get kids up and moving:

  1. Encourage active playtime: Instead of letting kids spend hours in front of screens, plan regular times for them to engage in physical play. This could include going to the park, playing sports or simply running around in the backyard.

  2. Make it a family affair: Getting the whole family involved in physical activity not only sets a good example for kids but also creates opportunities for bonding and making lasting memories together. Try going for a family bike ride, taking a hike, or turning on some music and dancing around the living room.

  3. Consider organized sports: Team sports can be a fun and effective way for kids to get regular exercise, as well as to learn valuable life skills like teamwork and sportsmanship.

  4. Encourage walking or biking to school: If it’s safe and feasible, consider having your child walk or bike to school rather than being driven. This simple change can add some much-needed physical activity to their day.

  5. Create an active home environment: Having sports equipment, jump ropes, or even a trampoline in the yard can motivate kids to engage in physical activity during their free time.

Ultimately, the key is to be proactive about encouraging physical activity at a young age. This will help to lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in the future.