Kids and Exercise – The Basics

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Your idea of a good workout might be to go for a run, lift some weights or hit a spin class at the gym. But exercise is very different for children. They’re not little adults, they don’t have the same strength and cardiovascular or mental capacity. They have higher resting heart rates. For a kid, a good sweat session means having play time or moving around.

Children clock physical activity points when they play in the house with friends, run about during break time, ride their bike to school and participate in games such as rounders, tag or football. These are the things they need to do more of to build stronger bones and muscles, maintain a healthy body weight, reduce the risk of diseases, improve their mental and emotional strength, sleep better and increase their aerobic abilities. Read out the kids and exercise – the basics.

Younger Kids Need Playtime

Kids have all the fun! If you’ve ever watched a child scramble up a climbing frame or swoosh down a slide, you’ll know they’ve got it sussed when it comes to enjoying being active. But the amount of time children spend playing is decreasing. According to a survey of seven to 12-year-olds by the National Trust in 2014, the majority of children today spend less than an hour a day playing outside.

Forget cartwheels, building dens and making daisy chains, today’s children today spend less than a third of the time enjoyed by our grandparents having fun in the great outdoors. And many kids also spend less time playing indoors due to the increasing appeal of sedentary activities, such as watching TV or browsing the web. But less playtime comes at a cost. A play is an important part of a child’s development. It helps to improve their motor skills, increase their fitness levels, build better dexterity, boost their imagination and even heighten their social prowess.

Older Kids Need Options

If the statistics are to be believed, the majority of teens don’t enjoy exercise. Research shows that 50% of girls don’t like school sports, with 43% claiming that it’s too competitive, while a quarter of teens claim not to have the energy for after-school clubs. And this could be a problem, as there’s a big drop-off in activity levels among school leavers. To remedy this issue, a  report suggests that it’s wise to present older children with a range of activity options, such as home-based exercises. Exercise that’s performed outside the school environment gives older children the opportunity to form an opinion about activity free from social pressure and stigma. And when planning non-school activities, it’s important to consider the three pillars of fitness. Turn the page to find out what they are.

The Three Fitness Pillars

Strength

Research shows that kids are weaker than they used to be because they spend less time doing strength-boosting activities. This isn’t good news, as strength exercises help kids to build healthy muscles, joints and bones, not to mention boost self-esteem and help them perform day-to-day activities. But strength work doesn’t mean lifting weights. While older kids may benefit from a supervised weights programme (that’s aimed at improving strength not increasing muscle size), most kids need to do little more than bodyweight activities.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Climbing trees
  • Wrestling
  • Monkey bars
  • Handstands
  • Bodyweight exercises (such as sit-ups)

Flexibility

Stretching activities will help to improve your child’s range of movement. This is important for agility and helping your child to perform simple activities, such as tying shoelaces or reaching to grab a book from a high shelf. Encourage your child to do flexibility activities now and they’ll have a better chance of being limber for life!

Try these moves:

  • Cartwheels
  • Sit and reach
  • Gymnastics
  • Dancing
  • Yoga for kids

Endurance

Children need stamina, too. Regular cardiovascular (CV) activity will help your child to build better aerobic fitness, which strengthens their heart and improves their body’s ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles. But kids don’t need to follow an adult-type CV plan. Research shows that children who do 20 minutes of continuous activity three times a week will experience positive physiological improvements, such as an increased VO2 max (how much oxygen your body can use at its maximum).

Consider these activities:

  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Tennis
  • Football

Benefits of Exercise

  • A stronger Immune system.
  • Stronger bone and muscle structure.
  • Less likely to become obese.
  • Have a better outlook on life.
  • Improves cognitive skills.