Children and exercise – Recommendations for avoiding Cardiovascular Diseases

Children and exercise – Recommendations for avoiding Cardiovascular Diseases

Physical activity in children is crucial for a child's healthy heart and overall well-being. When a child exercises regularly, he or she becomes benefits such as an improved cardiovascular fitness, increased bone mass, improved emotional development, a lower risk of obesity, and an elevated blood pressure. Besides, the risk of developing a cardiovascular (CVD) disease decreases considerably if physical activity is a part of a child's daily routine. On the contrary, several studies in children worldwide have concluded that a sedentary lifestyle is strong associated with lower levels of physical activity, adverse lipid profiles, a higher level of obesity and related cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and insulin resistance.

The best benefits for the heart derived from physical activity are achieved when children start exercising in young age and continue until young adulthood (9-18 years old) because it becomes more likely that a child would like to continue exercising in adulthood. Besides, physical active children and youth usually get involved in other healthy behaviours such as avoiding fat food. Moreover, there are two aspects to take care for a healthy cardiovascular functioning in children: First, it is recommended to get involved in physical activity of at least one hour (of moderated to vigorous intensity) daily because accroding to research in children, exercise reduces the blood pressure, body fat, body mass index (BMI), improves the cardiorespiratory fitness and the cardiometabolic risk profiles. Second, the sedentary time, this is, the time spent in front of the T.V. or other electronic devices (tablet, phone, computer, etc.) must be reduced to less than 2 hours a day.

In other words, the most important issue is that kids are able to spend time strenghtening their muscles and bones. For instance, small children younger than five years old get health benefits when they are given the opportunity to play actively and unlimited at least once a week in a safe place such as a garden, park, sport complex, etc. and when they are not allowed to use electronic devices nor T.V, etc. for longer periods than two hours a day. Babies until 2 years old should not watch T.V. nor be in contact with other electronic devices. Children aged 5 throughout adolescence must be encouraged by their parents to choose a physical activity. Activities such as walking, bicycling, jogging or choosing a sport such as swimming, dancing, football, etc. are great options so that children can easily get used to daily physical activity. Further, three aspects are recommended for older children (until 18 years old): First, vigorous intensity activity (such as practicing a sport e.g. basketball, football, tennis, or swimming), should take place on at least three days a week, second, less than two hours per day of sedentary activity as already mentioned, and third, the daily calory intake must be according to the amount of energy used by the child.

It is also important to mention that there is no need to get lessons in order to do exercise! Walking to nearby places, walking and breathing fresh air around the block, dancing at home, going up and down the stairs instead of using the elevator, jumping the rope at school or at home, doing gymnastics at home, walking through the woods or in a park to collect fruits, rocks and leaves to make a collage, etc. are good examples of maintaining children's heart healthy. Parents play a big role in shaping children's healthy habits. They are a great example for their children and it is up to them to encourage the good habit of exercising regularly so that children continue exercising in adulthood so that the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases decreases.