Childhood Inactivity, a Public Health Priority
The continuing epidemic of cardiovascular diseases calls for a renewed and intensified preventive public health action. The widespread occurrence and silent progression of atherosclerosis has created a cardiovascular diseases burden that is massive in terms of its attendant death and disability, as well as social and economic costs.
Atherosclerosis begins to develop in childhood and progresses into the adult years, significantly affected by the associated risk factors. Recent studies of children, adolescents, and young adults have demonstrated the close link of blood cholesterol level, blood pressure level, smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity with the extent and severity of atherosclerosis in the underage population. These findings underscore the opportunities for preventing cardiovascular diseases during childhood and adolescence, as well as the lifelong importance of prevention. In most children, atherosclerotic vascular changes are minor and can be minimized or even prevented with adherence to a healthy lifestyle. Accordingly, participation of children in sports and active play has never been more crucial than it is today. Furthermore, beside the beneficial role of physical activity in delaying or preventing metabolic complications, it has also been shown to improve bone mineral density, increase school performance, and have a positive effect on mental health.
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