The journal Circulation released a statement which found that most children in the U.S. between the ages of 2-19 years old do not meet the American Heart Association’s classification of ideal childhood cardiovascular health. You can read a detailed analysis of how they determine their findings and procedures at the following link. Healthy eating, not smoking, etc. are all important factors in their determination, but I like to focus on the exercise component. I have worked for decades in conjunction with Jump Rope for Heart, which is one of the exercise initiatives of the American Heart Association. In fact, my schedule in January and February is chock full of jump rope programs at schools all throughout the country that are trying to encourage students to raise funds for the AHA.
I’m all for helping raise funds to increase research funding for heart health, but I’m even more interested in getting kids involved with jump rope (or other activities) so they can create and maintain ideal cardiovascular health now. When I’m performing my jump rope assembly programs in schools, I try to get the kids excited about exercise. It’s easy to do an assembly where you read off statistics about how much better their life will be if they exercise.
I want them to see that exercise for cardiovascular health can be fun!
When they’re excited about exercise, they are much more likely to do it. If you can find ways to demonstrate fun exercises that are good for cardiovascular health, or even better, have an interactive day where students can have a tactile approach to trying different sports, you will encourage them to involve those activities in their daily life. One of they key metrics that they look at to determine whether students are achieving optimal cardiovascular health is how long do they do aerobic exercise. The goal is at least 60 minutes every day. We need to find ways to encourage that much activity on a daily basis.
Unfortunately schools around the country have cut time in P.E. and recess so they can have more time in the classroom. I’ve been to school districts where students in elementary school only have 1 P.E. class every 2 weeks. If long term cardiovascular health is important, we need to show kids on a daily basis that we think it’s vital. How do you do this? Maybe you can add a couple minutes of cardio at the end of every class you teach. Maybe you have jump ropes in your classroom that kids can take turns jumping for 1 minute throughout your classes. Maybe we’re involved teaching new skills during recess that they don’t have time to learn during P.E. There are tons of options, but we need to demonstrate how important being physically active is or we’re going to continue seeing a major drop off in cardiovascular health. In fact, for students aged 16-19 only 10% of boys and 5% of girls were even at a bare minimum of activity level. That is an atrocious figure.