Exercise is the best thing you can do. Not only does it strengthen your muscles and enhance flexibility and endurance, but it will stabilize your mood, increase your production of important hormones, improve brain function, reduce your risk of heart disease, enable better digestion, and so much more. Adults and children alike will benefit from exercise—in fact, multiple studies have proven that children who exercise end up as healthy adults.
Here’s one more study to add to the pile: the University of Eastern Finland found that exercise helped to reduce arterial stiffness among children between the ages of six and eight. By increasing the flexibility of blood vessels, exercise can reduce the risk of cardiovascular health problems during childhood, adolescence, and well into adulthood.
The Finnish researchers, working with scientists from the University of Cambridge, gathered 136 Finnish children between the ages of six and eight. They analyzed arterial stiffness, sedentary time, physical activity, diet quality, sleep length, and body fat percentages. The research found that children who moved less tended to have stiffer arteries. Many of the children spent less than the recommended time (26 minutes at moderate intensity) engaging in exercise. Those with the most sedentary lifestyle and least amount of physical activity had increased arterial stiffness.
Interestingly enough, even light physical activity didn’t affect the stiffness of the children’s arteries. Only the children that engaged in moderate to vigorous activity saw improvement in their arterial health. Even the children who spent more time in sedentary activity had healthier arteries when they engaged in moderate to vigorous activity.
You can see why it’s so important for your children to start moving around at a young age. Not only will their bodies (brain, muscles, bones, joints, coordination, hormone levels, etc.) suffer from a lack of physical activity, but their risk of cardiovascular health problems will increase if they don’t move around enough.
The arteries need to be flexible enough to dilate with an increase in blood flow. Arterial stiffness can prevent proper dilation, leading to high blood pressure and a higher risk of damage to the arteries. The result could be an increase in cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), and possibly even cardiovascular death.
Your kids must engage in daily physical exercise, for their health’s sake. Not only will it help them to be healthy at a young age, but it will reduce their cardiovascular risk factors as they age. With heart disease being the number one killer in the world, it’s vital that you—and they—take their exercise very seriously.
1. Haapala EA, Väistö J, Veijalainen A, Lintu N, Wiklund P, Westgate K, Ekelund U, Lindi V, Brage S, Lakka TA, “Associations of objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time with arterial stiffness in pre-pubertal children,” Pediatric Exercise Science 2017. doi: 10.1123/pes.2016-0168.