Lindsay, A. 2020, Cardio Endurance | Heart Smart, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, IP
kid running obstacle course

Physical activity is essential to helping children maintain a healthy weight by utilizing energy and strengthening their heart, muscles and bones. It also improves their overall health, helps them sleep and handle physical and emotional challenges better. Research shows that regular physical activity even helps children improve academically.

Cardio Endurance

Cardio- Respiratory, or “Cardio” Endurance is an important element to children’s physical fitness. Although we don’t actually measure cardio endurance in children under 10 years old, providing opportunities to engage in moderate to vigorous activity will improve a child’s cardiovascular fitness while using energy to help reduce the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Use the Whole Body to Be Heart Smart

Cardio activities are generally associated with heavy breathing and sweating and therefore considered moderate-to-vigorous. Preschoolers should get at least 60-120 minutes of physical activity each day, most of which is moderate-to-vigorous intensity and should only be done in short bursts of activity. Children under 6 years of age should never be required to run or perform other cardio activities for long periods of time. One way to increase the activity of the heart and lungs is to do large body movements. Big arm motions increase the heart and breathing rates which helps the body use more energy. The larger the movement, and the more body parts in motion, the more vigorous the activity.


stop sign

While doing cardio activities and living an active lifestyle help maintain a healthy weight, discussions centered on weight loss and decreased caloric intake should be avoided, especially with young children. Conversations such as these can cause depression and anxiety and may lead to disordered eating and body image disturbances.

Heart Smart Activity

adults and kids jumping

Teach children the value of cardio activities by showing them the “Heart Smart” activity. Have them place both hands over their heart and feel how fast the heart is beating. Ask if it’s beating fast or slow. Then perform a cardio activity such as jumping up and down for 20 seconds and practice the “heart smart” activity again. Notice how much faster the heart is beating. Explain that this means the heart and lungs are being active.

Cardio physical activity should focus on being healthy and having fun!

Being Heart Smart Helps Maintain Energy Balance

Teach children that eating healthy foods gives our bodies energy so that we can be active longer. In the same way, when we are tired from physical activity, we need to put fuel, or healthy foods, back in our bodies to give us energy!

"We get energy from eating healthy foods and use it for physical activity"

There are many activities that improve children’s cardio fitness while developing their motor skills. Try some of these at home:

  • Tag
  • Chase
  • Red Light, Green Light with jumping and hopping commands
  • Simon Says with large motions such as “touch the sky” commands
  • Swimming
  • Riding a bike, skateboard or scooter
  • Dancing

Cardio activities can also be done during non-designated physical activity times such as while waiting for the bus, during a TV commercial or walking from one place to another (hop like a kangaroo or another favorite animal).

Do as I do… not as I say! Be a good teacher or parent role model!

 

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