Preschoolers – they're an impressionable bunch. So impressionable, in fact, that a study carried out in Madrid shown that by introducing children to healthy living early, attitudes and perceptions of it change for the better.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, demonstrated how profound changes occurred when a healthy lifestyle was promoted to those aged between 3-5 years. What profound changes? Try better exercising habits, lower body fat levels and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
What is so exciting about this study – which was carried out on over 2000 preschoolers in Madrid – is that the benefits of introducing young children to healthy living practices last for many years into the future, and, in most cases, for the entirety of their lives.
As poor eating habits at a young age can almost treble a child's risk of cardiovascular disorder later on in life, anything that reduces this risk is greatly welcomed. Cardiovascular disorder, of course, is a condition nobody associates with children, which is partly why everybody has neglected to instill within them the correct habits to avoid it. Valentin Fuster, a senior member of the team that conducted the research in Madrid, highlighted the need to start targeting those who are surprisingly vulnerable to the effects of poor lifestyle choices: children. When asked for his opinion on the paper's findings, he said: "There is a need for a complete change in the timing of when we deliver care. Until now, the clinical community has focused on cardiovascular disease, which typically manifests in the later stages of life. Now, we need to focus our care in the opposite stage of life--we need start promoting health at the earliest years, as early as 3 to 5 years old, in order to prevent cardiovascular disease."
Researchers in Madrid used several techniques to really bring home the importance of healthy eating to the children they were working with. Organized school health fairs, health-related classroom activities, and lifestyle-focused homework assignments were just some of these techniques used.
When compared with their peeps – most of who had no formal lifestyle awareness coaching – the children who were involved in the intervention performed far better when it came to positive attitude, knowledge and habits regarding better living choices.
So, what does this mean for parents raising children in an area that isn't focusing on early interventions? Well, according to the research, the answer is simple: Encourage your child's cognitive stimulation, and teach them to be curious about how to better themselves physically as well as emotionally. The benefits couldn't be clearer.
The group of children involved in the early Intervention were found to have lower BMIs, and were at less risk of obesity. They had also cut their chances of suffering from a cardiovascular disorder considerably.
Good habits as a child often carry over into adulthood. Hopefully, this study will see more government-funded organizations trying to teach young children everywhere the value of healthy living practices.
1. American College of Cardiology (2015) ‘ Early intervention improves preschoolers heart healthy habits’ Science Daily accessed online on 11 October 2015 at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150928144029.htm