School Testing: The First Step to Cardiovascular Disease?

Child sitting in classroom

With the school year winding down, the number of standardized testing days seems to be never-ending. And when our kids are taking tests, they aren’t moving their bodies. Rather, they’re sitting in front of a screen, plugging away at the questions in front of them—sometimes for hours on end. What effect does this have on their health?

It stands to reason that if sitting is bad for grown-up humans, it’s probably bad for smaller variety humans as well. Right? In “Sitting Is Bad for Children, Too,” the New York Times reports on a study out of British Columbia: after a single sedentary session, a group of healthy young girls showed “changes in their blood flow and arteries that, in grown-ups, would signal the start of serious cardiovascular problems.” Yikes! That’s not nothin’!

Isn’t it silly how all the focus up to now has been on how bad sitting is for adults—and we’ve never considered asking ourselves how it translates to kids? Well done, Ali McManus, associate professor of pediatric exercise physiology at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna!

So could school testing be the first step in the development of cardiovascular disease in our kids? The good news is that the girls in the study bounced back from their three hours of uninterrupted veg-out time pretty quickly. And the part of the study group that got up every hour to casually ride a stationery bike for 10 minutes didn’t show any signs of blood flow restrictions.

child on playgroundWhat does this tell us? Can we really expect our schools to get kids up off their rumps for a few minutes every hour? I’d like to see some research on how that would alter the focus and attention of the class as a whole, but it probably isn’t likely to happen. After all, our teachers have a lot of lessons to get through each year, and sometimes you just have to keep plowing through to make it all happen. I have the utmost respect for teachers and everything they do!

Also, let’s not fool ourselves. We parents know kids tend to lead sedentary lives at home as well. As kids move into adolescence, the battle over zoning out in front of various sized screens becomes a regular occurrence.

But what can we do about it?

A biggie at our house is letting the boys run around for a bit after school, before they sit down to take care of their homework. We also encourage them to ride their bikes or walk to and from school—it’s a fantastic start and finish to the school day.

Leading by example can’t be beat either. If you, as a parent, don’t live a sedentary life, and if you instead encourage activities like family hikes and daily physical activity, your kids are more likely to follow suit.

As for the sedentary nature of our schools, it certainly doesn’t hurt to pass along articles like the one from the New York Times above to the school principal and/or your child’s classroom teacher. Of course, adding a little note explaining you found the information interesting, and you’re willing to pitch in and help to make movement happen, is always a good idea. Trust me, teachers don’t need one more thing to do…

Take a look at my blog post “How to Combat Your Sitting Lifestyle” for some ideas on building movement into your own day. It’s sure to translate into kid-friendly solutions too.

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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