With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you’ve no doubt prepared a special surprise for your little sweeties, but have you thought about your child’s physical heart health lately?
It seems like kids are in perpetual motion, so we assume they’re getting plenty of exercise just fidgeting, running around the house, and jumping on the furniture. Yet, nearly 60% of American children lack healthy cardiorespiratory fitness, according to a new scientific statement published by the American Heart Association.
What Is Cardiorespiratory Fitness?
Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) refers to the circulatory and respiratory systems’ ability to supply oxygen to muscles during sustained physical activity. Kids with optimal cardiorespiratory fitness have healthier heart and blood vessels, perform better in school, thin more clearly, and enjoy higher levels of self-worth and overall life satisfaction. Further, good CRF reduces the risk of lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The best way to measure CRF is with a cardiopulmonary exercise test on a treadmill. While most pediatricians do not test for cardiorespiratory fitness, there are ways to promote cardiorespiratory fitness if you’re unsure where your child stands.
5 Best Activities for Your Child’s Heart Health
The “best activity” is tailored to your child’s interests, but here are a few options:
- Running and Power Walking – Getting outside as a family, setting goals, and jogging together is the best way to encourage your child to pick up the sport. Relay races can be fun, especially if you have the “leader” call out the type of movement – whether it’s running, galloping, skipping, or jumping. You can also work in shorter bursts of running throughout the day with Level Up, Sonic the Hedgehog, or video game workouts on YouTube.
- Swimming – Normally, the NYC Parks Department runs a lotto in early March for free swimming lesson sessions and hosts plenty of venues for swimming outdoors all summer long. COVID-19 concerns have put the squeeze on these programs for now, but you can still swim at Roosevelt Island FREE of charge on a first-come first-served basis, and also at paid lesson sites like Imagine Swimming!, Aqua Skills, and Physique Swimming.
- Dancing – It doesn’t take anything more than the right music to throw a family dance party. Try this kid-friendly dance party playlist if you need the inspiration. The Just Dance video game is a blast if you own a Nintendo Switch, Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Xbox 360. There are plenty of places to find free virtual dance classes, too – ABTots, and the National Dance Institute, to name a few.
- Jumping Rope – Once you’ve purchased a jump rope, it will take some time for your child to build their skills and learn the basic technique. In no time, your child will be learning jump rope songs and trying out Double Dutch. After a while, older kids can test their abilities with the Star Wars Jump Rope Challenge and learn a few tricks to impress their friends.
- High Intensity Sports like Basketball & Soccer – It doesn’t cost much to pick up a soccer ball or basketball and play with your child. If you prefer formal instruction and group activities, kids as young as 3 can join the Dribbl program or Chelsea Piers’ youth basketball. NYC Basketball Kids also offers summer and holiday break camps for kids 5 and up. Soccer Shots is an amazing program that teaches kids traditional values like self-esteem and respect, while combining basic soccer skills and fun imaginative games for kids as young as two. The City Parks Foundation also has a free summer program if you’d like to test out the waters to see if soccer is something your child would like.
Shine NYC would like to wish you and your family a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Here are a few crafting projects and DIY valentine recommendations to enjoy after all that physical activity. Check out these picture books if you’re staying in, or consider going out to one of the children’s museums.