When it comes to keeping kids healthy and preventing future heart disease, it's not just about weight.
It's about strength, too.
That's the message of a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers looked at data from a whole bunch of middle school students from Michigan. They looked at how much they weighed, how much they exercised, their percentage of body fat, their cholesterol and blood pressure--and their strength (measured by hand grip, which apparently is a pretty good indicator).
What they found was that kids who were stronger had a lower risk of heart disease.
It's not just strength, of course. Having a lower body fat makes a difference, as does being at a healthy weight and being active. But we don't usually think about getting kids strong--we tend to think more about getting them thin--and that needs to change.
This doesn't mean that parents should be signing their kids up for gyms and having them pump iron, although a supervised weight-training program is fine for older kids and teens. It does mean that as we think about the kind of physical activities we want kids to do, we should think about exercises that improve muscle strength.
This can be simple stuff, like sit-ups or push-ups or other simple calisthenics. It can also be playing on the monkey bars and otherwise using upper (and lower) body strength at the playground.Yoga is a great way to build strength, especially core strength, and there are lots of great yoga classes and videos for kids.
You might want to think about doing a yoga class together--or doing some exercises together at home. Do a wall-sit or plank together; have a contest. You get some bonding time, you set a good example, and, hey, it's almost bathing suit time. Can't hurt to buff up a little.
The habits started in childhood last a lifetime. Get your child started on being strong. It may make all the difference for them later.