A: Set a good example by practicing heart-healthy habits yourself. Limit sedentary activities such as television, movies, videos and computer games to no more than two hours a day. Plan active family outings and vacations. Assign household chores (mowing lawns, raking leaves, scrubbing floors, etc.) that require physical exertion. Observe what sports and activities appeal to your children, then encourage their development with lessons or by joining teams. If it’s safe to walk or bike rather than drive, do so. Use stairs instead of elevators and escalators. Make sure that your children’s physical activities at school or in daycare are adequate. When your children are bored, suggest something that gets them moving — play catch or build a snowman!
A: To achieve health benefits, no. Doing moderate-level activities often will help lower your health risks. If you want to attain a high level of cardiovascular fitness, you need to gradually work up to exercising at least three or four times a week for 30-60 minutes at 50-80 percent of your maximum capacity.
- Children in the U.S. today are less fit than they were a generation ago. Many are showing early signs of cardiovascular risk factors such as physical inactivity, excess weight, higher blood cholesterol and cigarette smoking.
- Inactive children, when compared with active children, weigh more, have higher blood pressure and lower levels of heart-protective high-density lipoproteins (HDL cholesterol).
- Even though heart attack and stroke are rare in children, evidence shows that the process leading to those conditions begins in childhood.
- Children spend an average of 17 hours a week watching TV plus to the time they spend on video and computer games.
- Inactive children are more likely to become inactive adults.
- Healthy lifestyle training should start in childhood to promote improved cardiovascular health in adult life. The following good health practices should be promoted among children:
- regular physical activity
- a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet after the age of two
- smoking prevention
- appropriate weight for height
- regular pediatric medical checkups
In a country where more than 10 million children ages 6 to 17 are considered overweight and almost half of these are severely obese, it’s more important than ever to educate young people about the importance of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.
Parents and teachers who think children get enough exercise at school may be surprised to learn that only 44 percent of students in elementary, middle, and high school receive physical education according to a survey conducted by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Parents and teachers can take an active role in their children’s or students’ health by incorporating physical activity with other home and classroom activities.