Research finds kids have poor heart health as a result of increased screentime and less physical activity.
The issue of kids and increasing screen time needs no introduction. Plenty of people have been talking about this problem, and it even dates back well before smartphones were introduced. As soon as video games became a common feature in households across the country, people – parents, specifically – started to worry about how much time their kids were spending in front of screens. Of course, it’s only gotten worse with the developments in technology that we have seen over the last couple of decades. Not only is there an impact on quality of life when a young person spends a ton of time in front of a screen rather than staying active, but there is a tangible impact on physical health, as well. Specifically, there seems to be a connection to heart health that should not be ignored.
Children should have mostly good cardiovascular health, in the absence of any specific heart condition or other health issues. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as studies are showing that the majority of kids are scoring poorly in cardiovascular health. Specifically, under 30% of kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are meeting the standards for high heart health. Those standards include important measurements like body mass index, total cholesterol, physical activity, blood pressure, blood glucose, and more.
Perhaps even more concerning is the significant drop off in heart health that is seen as kids move into their teenage years , especially after having had a sedative early childhood. Among the group from 12 to 19 years of age, only 14% were meeting the standards for high heart health. One of the biggest reasons that kids were coming up short on this test is the overwhelming rates of obesity seen in young people today.
Turning the tide is going to come down to changing the habits of young people on a broad scale. Establishing sedentary habits that include spending many daily hours in front of screens rather than being active outside is not only going to lead to poor health in childhood, but it is also going to lead to those negative habits continuing into adulthood.
Aside from the issue of screentime, there is also the matter of diet to consider. Packaged, sugary foods are the rule more than the exception for many kids, and that leads to weight gain, blood pressure issues, and all kinds of other health problems. Finding ways to introduce more natural, whole foods into the diets of young people is another critical part of the turnaround that needs to be implemented by families and food manufacturers alike.
Studies are a great way to gain insight into problems, although the truth is that a study probably isn’t necessary to know that it is better for kids to be outside and active than stuck inside in front of a screen. The more children, and parents, that get this message, the better off everyone will be in terms of overall physical and mental health.