By Beth Davis, CPT, Fitness Blogger and Personal Trainer
Back-to-school time is the perfect time to put some structure back into your kids’ lives. How about adding a fitness routine to encourage that healthy habit early in life? It will benefit them throughout their lifetimes, in many different ways!
Working out with them can help make it fun. Following a few simple guidelines will keep it safe, too!
But, aren’t they too young to exercise?
If kids are in organized sports such as soccer football or basketball they generally are ready to start some sort of strength training exercise. There are some myths surrounding strength training and children such as ‘stunting’ their growth. According to a recent study reported on in the New York Times, children benefit from weight training. They grew stronger!
Of course, proper nutrition and age appropriate activities are important. It’s important to have a certified personal trainer to help show kids correct form and safety techniques.
Start with bodyweight exercises and resistance bands. You can slowly add weight as children grow older and are able to follow directions and use correct form. It’s also important to keep repetitions to between 8 and 15. And children should never do weightlifting for 1 rep maximum lifts.
Make it a family affair!
Children learn a lot of their behavior from watching parents and adults. I started taking my niece at an early age to do physical activities such as hiking, swimming, climbing and later weightlifting. Although we determined quickly that heights were not for her, she seemed to love to follow me at the gym!
Set a good example for your kids. Instead of watching TV, get on a bike, treadmill or trampoline. Shoot baskets, play frisbee or enjoy a family walk. Getting the family together for any activity makes it more fun and gets everyone participating!
Starting a formal exercise program
A child’s strength-training program shouldn’t just be a scaled-down version of an adult’s weight training regimen. Enlist the help of a CPT (certified personal trainer) with experience training kids. The trainer will be able to safely prepare a program to show your child the proper lifting technique.
It’s safe to have kids as young as 7 or 8 years old doing some strength-training activities like push-ups and sit-ups with the correct instruction. These exercises can help kids build a sense of balance, control, and awareness of their bodies. Start all exercises without resistance. When proper technique is achieved, you can start to add resistance with bands or small weights.
Make a game of it
It’s always easier to get kids to exercise if they think it’s a game. You can start younger kids with simple exercises like jumping jacks, frog leaps, or running in place with a “red light – green light ” game.
Older kids can build strength and endurance with push-ups and pull-ups. Jungle gyms are great because kids utilize their own body weight – and they’re fun! Make a bootcamp-style obstacle course and time the kids. Have them climb the monkey bars, run to and from a specific destination and and then do push-ups!
3 fun home workouts
Try these easy “games” at home and get your kids on the path to lifelong fitness:
1. Simon Says with a Twist!
All you need for this game are several hula hoops, some paper and great tunes! This is similar to musical chairs. Start by spreading the hoops out on the ground and at each hoop, write down the name of the exercise to be performed. Pushups, run in place and squats are great choices.
Press “play” to start the game. When the kids hear the music, they’ll walk or skip around the hoops. When the music stops, they’ll jump to the nearest hoop and do the exercises written there till the music starts again!
2. Relay Races
Set up a relay race with two cones about 20 yards apart. Assign teams comprised of one to three kids. When you shout “Go,” the kids skip, sprint or do a side shuffle from cone #1 to cone #2 and back. The first team to have all three players perform each drill down and back wins!
3. Obstacle courses
Make a fitness obstacle course in your backyard or basement. Sidewalk chalk is a cheap and easy tool to use to build a course. Let the kids draw squares to hop on, moats to jump over, and commands to perform like “10 jumping jacks here!” The course can be as elaborate as the kids’ imagination permits!
These are just a few activities that will help get your kids active while having fun! School work, TV time and video games keep kids less physically active, so incorporating some fun exercised-based games and routines will help them stay healthy!