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New study to measure impact of childhood fitness on adult heart health

More Australian schools are being urged to sign-up for Jump Rope for Heart in a bid to improve the physical fitness of school aged kids.

The call from the Heart Foundation comes as the organisation supports a new study which aims to understand whether staying fit in childhood reduces the risk of heart disease later in life.

Jump Rope for Heart this month celebrates its 40th anniversary. The program is a cultural icon for Australian school kids dating back to its beginnings in 1983. It has long been a way for schools to encourage kids to take up physical activity while learning about fundraising for heart health.

Despite the program’s success, data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that kids spend more time sitting or lying down with digital devices than they do playing outside.

Consequently, one in four Australian kids is either overweight or obese, and only a quarter of all kids aged 5 to 14 undertake the required 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

The Heart Foundation is supporting Dr Brooklyn Fraser from the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research to measure the long-term benefits to heart health of greater child fitness, and investigate ways for parents and teachers to identify at-risk children.

Dr Fraser’s research may lead to helping schools implement fitness programs with the view of helping students avoid heart disease later in life.

“There is growing evidence that child fitness levels are in decline, and that this may contribute to poor heart health in the future,” Dr Fraser said.

“This is what has motivated me to investigate this further and identify children who may be at risk and to find new ways to increase their physical fitness levels.

“My advice in the meantime is that schools shouldn’t wait: programs like Jump Rope for Heart will help to increase fitness levels among students, thereby potentially reducing their risk of heart disease into adulthood.”

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