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In the wake of recently publishing swimming safety tips, which were featured in this space last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is advocating increased — but safe — levels of activity on land, as well as in the water, in its press release for this week.

A study to be published in the journal Pediatrics on July 1, but released online Tuesday, demonstrates that moderate to vigorous physical activity improved cardiovascular health indicators for children between ages 3 and 5.

Why is that so important? Heart disease isn’t a problem until adulthood, right?

Think again.

“It is now well accepted that the initiating events of the cardiovascular disease process begin in early childhood,” say the authors of the study in their opening paragraph.

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and at the University of Toronto, measured seven-day activity levels among 418 children annually between August 2010 and September 2014. Then, they also assessed measures of cardiovascular health at follow-up visits.

During summer months, a municipal or backyard playground is an excellent location for engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity — if the facility is designed and maintained with safety in mind. Part of that safety “maintenance” also involves safe behavior.

Consequently, on May 30, the AAP released the following tips but features them again in its current press release:

• The playground should have safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials (shredded rubber, sand, wood chips or bark) maintained to a depth of at least 9 inches (6 inches for shredded rubber). The protective surface should be installed at least 6 feet (more for swings and slides) in all directions from the equipment.

• Equipment should be carefully maintained. Open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous.

• Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas.

• Teach children to give swings a wide berth and never stand behind or play around swings when in use.

• Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.

• Never attach — or allow children to attach — ropes, jump ropes, leashes or similar items to play equipment; children can strangle on these. If you see something tied to the playground, remove it or call the playground operator to remove it.

• Make sure your children remove helmets and anything looped around their necks.

• Metal, rubber and plastic products can get very hot in the summer, especially under direct sun. Make sure slides are cool to prevent children's legs from getting burned.

• Do not allow children to play barefoot on the playground.

• Poles for ziplines should be securely mounted in the ground. Make sure children are strong enough to hold on until they can safely reach the other end.

• Parents should supervise children on play equipment.

This tip, among the last, may not be popular but may be the most important of all:

• Parents should never purchase a home trampoline or allow children to use a home trampoline because of the risk of serious injury even when supervised.

Knowing that such advice is often ignored, the AAP offered three last tips:

• Surrounding trampoline netting offers a false sense of security and does not prevent many trampoline-related injuries. Most injuries happen on the trampoline, not from falling off.

• If children are jumping on a trampoline, they should be supervised by a responsible adult, and only one child should be on the trampoline at a time; 75% of trampoline injuries occur when more than one person is jumping at a time.

• Homeowners should verify that their insurance policies cover trampoline-related claims. Coverage is highly variable, and a rider may need to be obtained.

In similar safety tips published nearly four years ago, the AAP also urged parents to “keep children from shoving, pushing and fighting.”

No quarreling with that.

John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at jdoherty@comhs.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.

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