Myths and Facts About Youth Fitness

When you’re not grocery shopping or making meals, you’re likely at a soccer game, ballet practice or tee ball, right? You don’t slow down very often and neither do your kids. As a mom, you do what you can to provide them with best equipment, get them where they need to be, keep their clothes clean and show your support (doing everything you can to avoid yelling at the umpire when he calls a 3rd strike). Whether your child hopes to be the Michael Jordan of basketball, or would rather play Minecraft all night, it’s your role to keep them active AND healthy.

Have you ever asked yourself…

Should kids be following an exercise program?

How young is too young to be in the weight room?

How long should the activity last?

The following information is meant to provide you with the resources you need to help your child become the best version of themselves, while building strength, stamina and confidence. It’s also a good idea to consult your pediatrician so they can assess your child’s individual health, activity level and goals.

Frequency
In general, children ages 5-12 should participate in physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. These activities include play, sports, gym class and more.

Duration
Ever have trouble getting your child’s attention? Do they excel in “selective hearing?” Physical activity should last at least 15 minutes per day, or accumulate to at least 60 minutes of age appropriate exercise. Not only is the physical capacity of a child dependent on their age and developmental stage, but their activity should also be based on their attention span. For youth, a longer and less intense activity may result in a greater attention span with less physical stress. There are positive health and social benefits to this when compared to shorter and more intense activity.

Intensity
To improve your child’s aerobic health, an activity should provide progressive overload to maintain an elevated heart rate. It is recommended to use the Rating of Perceived Exertion scale to regulate intensity. Most of the time spent in activity should be in the green zone, with a rating between 12 and 16.

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Resistance Training
In the past, many believed strength training could cause injury to the developing growth plates in a child’s bones. New research encourages resistance training in children for its health benefits. Not only will your child’s physical performance improve, but resistance training can have a positive effect on body composition, flexibility, blood pressure and more. Examples of resistance training include use of resistance bands and bodyweight moves such as squats and wall pushups. If you choose to use free weights, begin with ½ pound to 1 pound dumbbells, focusing on proper technique and safety.

Building Confidence
While it is important for your child to have an exercise program, avoid emphasizing activity for the sake of beauty or appearance. Avoid motivating children with extrinsic reinforcement. Instead, rely on stickers and certificates to praise children and keep them intrinsically motivated. Remember, people of all ages need encouragement and praise to keep up with positive behaviors.

What Next?
Your child will respond best to certain activities based on their age.

Between the ages of 2 and 5, focus on developing body awareness, hand-eye coordination and balance. Activities include climbing over and under, jumping, catching, running and hopping.

Children ages 6-8 benefit from obstacles courses that incorporate large muscle groups, visual perception, spatial awareness and cognitive/motor functions. You may want to consider including basic sports skills.

When a child is between the ages of 9 and 12, their program should consist of strength, endurance, flexibility, agility and balance. Activities that incorporate these skills include dance and strength training with bodyweight resistance and light weights.

Along with incorporating these practices into your child’s routine, it is also important to set an example and be a role model. Click here to check out the Do Anywhere Workout series.  Questions?  Feedback? Leave a comment below; I would love to hear from you.

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