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For Heart Health, It is Never Too Early to Start Exercising

Early exercise

The beginnings of cardiovascular disease can start as early as elementary school age. Teach your children good habits for lifelong heart health.


What do you know about the health of your arteries? Obviously, they are quite important as they deliver oxygen and vital nutrients to all body organs and tissue. So have you stopped to think about the steps you take each day (literally) to keep them from being stiff?

Arterial stiffness is a measure of how pliable your arteries are. If the blood vessel walls are stiff and hard, pressure will increase and cause the heart to work harder to pump blood. High blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease and is a risk factor for stroke.

Unfortunately, increased arterial stiffness can begin in childhood – as early as six to eight years old! The good news, good habits such as getting enough moderate to vigorous physical activity can help prevent this from occurring.

Research published in Pediatric Exercise Science utilized data from 136 Finnish children. The team measured physical activity time and sedentary time – the time spent in front of the television or on a computer screen, for example. Arterial stiffness was measured using pulse contour analysis.

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Children who participated in vigorous exercise daily for about an hour were less likely to have stiffened arteries. Unfortunately, though, light exercise didn’t seem to have quite the same positive effects.

Examples of moderate-to-vigorous activity includes running, ball games, gymnastics and dance.

As always, children model what they see – so we adults need to practice what we preach and set good examples for our kids. So get out there and play soccer in the back yard, have the family run a 5K fun run together, or take time each night to take a walk around the neighborhood. Its good for everyone!

Journal Reference:
Eero A. Haapala, Timo A. Lakka et al. Associations of Objectively Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time With Arterial Stiffness in Pre-pubertal Children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1123/pes.2016-0168

Photo Credit
By Tysto - Own work, via Wikimedia Commons