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Spotlight on Walden // Feb 20, 2012

Teaching Kids to Live Heart Healthy

Dr. Shelley Armstrong, a health educator and BS in Health Studies faculty member, believes that a lifetime of heart health begins in childhood. That’s why she founded YOUth FIT, a running program for kids.

YOUth FIT’s mission is to teach kids that exercise is not only integral to heart health, but it’s also fun. The program provides children with skills and fitness instruction for successful long-distance running. It also encourages and challenges children to exercise regularly and learn healthy lifestyle behaviors.

“Often adults are stuck in unhealthy habits, and it’s difficult for them to change a lifetime of those learned behaviors,” said Dr. Armstrong. “By teaching children healthy behaviors such as exercising and running, we are preparing them to maintain those lifestyles throughout adulthood.”

Even if you have not been heart healthy since childhood, you can still take steps to change your lifestyle. Because physical activity cuts the risk for heart disease in half, a regular running regimen is one of the most effective ways to prevent heart disease. In recognition of American Heart Month, Dr. Armstrong offers more tips to help reduce your risk for heart disease:

  • Be active. You can reduce the risk of heart disease with even a moderate amount of physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. This could be 30 minutes of brisk walking or raking leaves, 15 minutes of running, or 45 minutes of playing a team sport such as volleyball.
  • Take a brisk walk. Walking is a great exercise, and as you increase the time and intensity of your walk, you do more to prevent heart disease. Start by walking a mile each day and then slowly increase your speed and distance. Your goal should be a daily two-mile walk at a brisk pace.
  • Purchase a pedometer. Walking 10,000 steps per day can help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. You don’t have to walk all your steps at once, though. Here are some easy ways to increase your steps with daily activities:
    • Schedule walking breaks throughout your day instead of taking coffee or smoking breaks.
    • Walk, cycle, jog, or skate to work, school, or the store.
    • Park your car at the far end of the parking lot.
    • Get off the bus a few blocks from your usual stop.
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
    • Do an extra lap around the block when you walk your dog.
    • Do your own gardening, landscaping, or home repairs.

For additional tips and information on maintaining a healthy heart, please visit