Heart Health Starts Young!

Posted by Brandi D’Amico on February 27, 2018

February is American Heart Month. What better time to teach our youngest here at the JCC about the heart: Its function, its importance, its location in the body, and how to keep it healthy!

Some of our oldest students in our Early Childhood Development Center began learning about their hearts last week during Special Gym, thanks to a special lesson planned by one of our student interns from the University of Pittsburgh, Jilly Wilson.

During the lesson, the students did a variety of different movements and exercises and then felt their heartbeats to determine how hard they were working to complete that given exercise.  They recognized that some activities made their hearts work harder (jumping over a line and back, repeatedly) and that with some activities, they were able to recover a bit and allow their heartbeat to slow down – such as balancing on one leg.

Now you might be thinking, is it really important for young children to be engaged in activities where their heart rate is elevated?  Aren’t they a little young to be participating in cardiovascular-based activities?

Cardiovascular disease isn’t usually something we associate with young children.  However, getting an early jump (pun intended) on heart and lung health by being involved in a sport or activity can help establish a pattern that can be carried into adulthood.  Children and young adults who exercise regularly are more likely to seek physical activity and fitness throughout their lifespan. Recent studies have discovered that regular exercise in childhood and adolescence increases the odds of individuals staying physically active and healthy during adulthood.

We know that being physically active serves as a protective factor for cardiovascular disease in adults, but what effect does being physically active have on children?  A study done in Finland focused on children ages 4-7 years old and their physical activity levels, and how it correlated to various risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Over three years, it was found that those children who were involved in high-activity games and outdoor play resulted in a lower body mass index and had a positive effect on the child’s systolic blood pressure and high-density lipoproteins (HDL’s).  They determined that being involved in these types of activities also serves as a protective risk factor for cardiovascular disease in children as well, not just adults.

The JCC is committed to encouraging the establishment of lifelong healthy behaviors in children. Registration is open for the next session of preschool and youth sports classes, which begins March 18. 

Learn more:

Squirrel Hill Sports and Rec

South Hills Sports and Rec

Have questions or need help to register for a class? 

Call Brandi D’Amico, Program Coordinator, Sports and Recreation412-697-3532 or fill out the Contact Form below and she’ll get right back to you.

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