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A healthy lifestyle must begin in childhood

By Veita Bland, M.D. / September 1, 2023

Researchers recommend three to four hours of light-intensity exercise such as walking each day for children and adults.

When I was a child, going outside and playing all day until the streetlights came on or the sun went down was my daily activity and that of many people growing up. We had good clean fun that involved playing hard with our brothers, sisters, cousins and friends. We got so dirty, we could actually smell ourselves. Those times bring back wonderful memories of the fun we had. Today, few kids get to go outside and play like many of us did. Organized activities and sports teams are more the speed of today’s youth. With games played and practices scheduled, the spontaneity of those good old days is few and far between.

Worse yet, so many kids today get very little whole-body exercise. Video gamers exercise their hands and some of their upper body, but whole-body exercise is just not in their game plan.

So, are our kids experiencing any ill effects from this lack of activity? Some would say yes. The subject of exercise in youth was discussed at the European Society of Cardiology’s (ESC) Congress 2023 in Amsterdam. Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland followed a group of kids ages 11 to 24. The kids wore activity monitors while participating in the study. The researchers tracked that the 11-year-old kids were sedentary for only six hours a day. As the youngsters reached the age of 15 (four years later), the sedentary time had grown to eight hours a day. By the end of the study, sedentary time for the kids had grown to nine hours a day.

The researchers wanted to make sure it was understood that this sedentary time was “stolen” from light-intensity exercise. So, it appears that the kids spent six hours a day doing light activity in childhood, which then decreased to three hours a day in young adulthood.

Researchers found that for girls, being sedentary in one’s youth is associated with an enlargement in the left ventricle of the heart. The larger left ventricle is associated with increased heart disease in adults.

The study highlighted the toll that a sedentary life has on heart health. It also emphasized the importance of prioritizing a healthy lifestyle in childhood.
The researchers recommend three to four hours of light-intensity exercise a day, especially for our kids but also for adults. Light activity includes walking slowly, light housework, putting away groceries and playing games. Light exercise has been associated with reversing these heart issues. When it comes to kids, finding activities they enjoy is the key. Again, such activities may include walking, jogging, swimming and dancing to name a few.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-P) recommends only one measly hour a day of exercise for kids 6-17. A survey in 2020 found only 25 percent of kids were making that happen a day.

Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver was not a part of the ESC study but commented on it. He said, “If we want children to live not only long but well – without major health concerns – it is important to prioritize health now. Habits we form earlier in life and the way we live earlier in life have a lasting effect. If we can figure out and weave those habits into our lives earlier, the results will be amazing.”

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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