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Medical Community: Play Longer, Kids; Your Heart Needs It

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Thursday, August 6, 2020   

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- A group of doctors has compiled research that suggests young children aren't playing enough, or long enough.

The new medical summary was done in conjunction with the American Heart Association and underscores barriers some kids in Minnesota face in staying fit. The doctors say a majority of American children aren't getting enough substantial physical activity that can provide long-term health benefits.

Dr. Nick Edwards, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said a key takeaway is only four in 10 kids in the U.S. are at optimal levels of physical fitness.

"There's a lot of kids that just aren't in the kind of shape from a heart and lung perspective as we know would be optimal for their health," Edwards said.

Specifically, Edwards said these kids lack cardio-respiratory fitness, which is linked to better heart and mental health, academic achievement and other outcomes.

The summary shows children from lower-income families tend to be affected because of accessibility issues in finding places to play. In Minnesota, 36% of Black children live in poverty, highlighting concerns about the extra barriers they face in achieving optimal health.

Edwards said while Minnesota does have a good reputation for embracing the winter season, the colder climate also discourages kids from playing more. He said all of these factors need to be considered by a variety of stakeholders to ensure young children are provided opportunities for vigorous activity.

"Parents need to be good models and get active with their kids," Edwards said. "On the higher level, schools providing resources [such as] places after hours, rec centers, municipal governments; providing places that are heated and climate controlled."

The summary also linked increased use of electronic devices as a contributing factor to kids living a more sedentary lifestyle.

The doctors involved in the report cited the need for more accurate testing for this benchmark, as opposed to questionnaires during routine checkups. They said schools could play a role because many of them already provide running exercises.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Minnesota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Smoking Prevention. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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