All over the US, including Massachusetts, kids are becoming unhealthier. Sugary drinks and junk food are part of that, but so is a sedentary lifestyle. Instead of playing outdoors or participating in physical sports, kids spend much of their time in front of a screen, whether it’s a phone or computer. To combat that problem, parents need to encourage physical activity and lead by example. Workouts for kids have to be age appropriate based on both mental and physical readiness.
Not all types of strength-building exercises are suitable for children of all ages.
Weightlifting and bodybuilding aren’t appropriate workouts for younger children, but strength training can begin early with games that include bodyweight exercises. There’s a difference between improving strength and building big muscles. For very young children, like toddlers, exercises can be as simple as squatting down, picking up a ball and standing up to throw it. Mimicking animal movements, such as crab walking, is good as the child gets older. At about age seven, more difficult workouts for strength can include burpees, planks, hip bridges and wall handstands.
Make exercising fun.
Kids will associate exercise with being miserable if you force it on them. Instead of attempting to push a formal exercise program, focus on encouraging children to be more active. Find something active that they enjoy. You can encourage the process by doing it with them. For instance, bike riding, taking walks, and even playing tag together is a start. Options for preteens can include martial arts that teach discipline and build fitness. Dance or gymnastics are also appropriate.
Sometimes the simplest things are the best.
Whether it’s a game or just racing to the door, running is excellent exercise. Jumping rope is another physically taxing workout that kids have been doing for centuries. You can even make it more fun by challenging them to try to jump from side-to-side, front-to-back or one foot then the other. Hopscotch is another great exercise often neglected. Buy everyone a hula hoop and challenge each other. You’ll benefit from the extra action, too.
- Yoga poses can begin at an early age and not only build strength, but also improve flexibility. Some easy poses include downward-facing dog, cat-cow, cobra, happy baby and child pose.
- Some basic bodyweight exercises can build core strength. You can do these workouts with children. Planks, crunches, bicycle crunches, sit-ups and push-ups can be appropriate for kids.
- If you’re doing exercises with your kids, make it fun and make it more “active play” than exercise. Squat relay races are a lot more fun than just doing squats. Becoming a tin soldier with high knee marching can turn into a story acted out or a game.
- Exercising with kids is more about movement than finding the best exercise. An active life can provide that. Be a good example and exercise regularly. Plan activities for the whole family that are more physically challenging, like hiking rather than watching TV.
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