February is American Heart Month. Nearly one in two adults in the U.S. have hypertension, or high blood pressure. While healthy habits can start at any age, sometimes it’s easier if they’re practiced during childhood, especially since high blood pressure in adolescents is linked to health problems later in life.
To teach your children how to take care of their health, use these snacks and activities to emphasize how they’re not only eating yummy food or doing something fun, but they’re also helping take care of their hearts now and for their future selves.
There’s a lot to choose from, even if your child is a picky eater. Food pallets can change over time, so be patient and know you’re doing the best you can, and that’s all you can ask of yourself.
If you’re looking for something sweet, your go-to should be fruit in any form. Fruits are naturally full of sugar. Here are some ideas:
It’s important to avoid sodas or any beverages high in sugar like sweetened tea. Here are some healthier options for your kiddo:
Any physical activity that increases your kid’s heart rate for a sustained period like 10-20 minutes helps keep the heart healthy. Consider doing things as a family – going on walks, bike rides, or swimming at the pool – and limiting your child’s screen time. Other options include dancing or marching to music or running through a homemade obstacle course or around the playground. If you can, aim for 60 minutes a day of exercise.
Sports like soccer and basketball are great to get a child’s heart pumping, but of course we love to point out the benefits of swimming. It’s not just a physical activity that uses the whole body – it’s also tied into safety and cognitive development.
Formal swim lessons result in an 88% reduction in drowning risk for children ages 1 to 4, according to the National Institutes of Health, and drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages 1 to 4 than any other cause except birth defects. Since swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning and check off the exercise box for the day, it’s an ideal activity to choose for kids. Plus, swimming provides advantages for your child’s brain too.
A study from Griffith University in Australia indicates that children who swim have many advantages when it’s time to start school.
“While we expected the children to show better physical development and perhaps be more confident through swimming, the results in literacy and numeracy really shocked us,” lead researcher Professor Robyn Jorgensen said. “The children were anywhere from six to 15 months ahead of the normal population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, counting, language and following instructions.”
We hope we’ve given you some ways to incorporate heart-healthy habits in your kid’s life. Learn more about Emler Swim School’s award-winning curriculum by signing up for a virtual information session, held twice a day Monday through Thursday.