Make Family Fitness Fun – Building Healthy Children
“The Family that Plays Together Stays Together”. This quote can be attributed to many things, most importantly, keeping your family healthy. Children learn what they live and the best way to keep your kids healthy and happy is to be the example. Make family fitness fun!
Set Them Up for a Lifetime of Physical Activity Enjoyment
Young children have a short attention span and trying to get them to do organized exercise can be near to impossible. Their first experiences with exercise should be enjoyable so that they want to participate more. Experts agree, that family fitness is more fun when children associate it with play time. It motivates them to do more and can set them up for a lifetime of enjoyment for physical activity.
The goal with little ones is to make exercise a game. Old standbys, like soccer, tag or skipping are great for cardiovascular endurance. You can also have them walk/ run/jump or do circuits that involve jumping, crawling and agility – remember “hop scotch”? Relays also provide an excellent way to teach teamwork, which is more traditional, structured exercise, yet is accepted by young kids.
Remember it is Never too Late to Start
When dealing with older inactive children, remember it is never too late to start. It is always important to remember to start slow and let your child set the pace. Pushing them too hard, too soon will only make them resent physical activity and will demotivate them. Bike rides are a good start with older children and you can have the rides end at a place that is enjoyable such as the beach or park for a picnic. Once they are comfortable with bike rides, aim to keep them outside with hikes, rollerblading or try to find an outdoor exercise park, which still allows them to be outside with nature. Another great place to start with more structured exercise is an outdoor gym. Many of the new outdoor gym parks have equipment that will eventually prepare them to go to an indoor gym. Park circuits teach more traditional forms of exercise while still seeming like a family fitness game.
What about the gym?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that traditional strength training is safe and effective for children as young as 7 or 8 years of age. They also emphasize that the children see their family physician first, receive medical clearance and to not lift too heavy or push too hard. AAP also states that it is imperative children, initially, work with a certified personal trainer who can teach them proper form with emphasis on fun and safety.
Do they need to start so early?
The short answer is no, but also, you don’t need to be afraid to let them work out with weights. It won’t damage them in any way and they won’t get bulky like an adult.
Another thing to keep in mind with weight training for kids is facility age restrictions. Most community centers do not allow children under the age of 13 to work out in the weight training area. Children between the ages of 13 to 17 often need to book an appointment with a weight room instructor for a youth orientation to demonstrate they have the maturity level to work out in the gym. Once your child is oriented to the facility, you can now workout together creating an invaluable bonding opportunity.
Build a Lifetime Bond with your Children and Family Fitness
Whatever activity you do with your kids, the most important thing to remember is that this is time to develop close relationships. Daily, we need time to unplug, get up and get active! Teach your children by example, and this will set them up for a life of health and happiness!
Cathie Glennon, BCRPA-SFL / Pharm Tech (level 3) / Rehabilitation Specialist