Kids Need to Workout
Our children are becoming lazier and less active than ever before. Emerging data also suggests they are getting weaker. Childhood obesity has skyrocketed to new heights (almost 20% of all children in the United States have obesity). Kids spend way too much time in front of a screen and not enough playing outside. Youth sports are declining in popularity while eGames (sorry, not a sport) are exploding. Children (and adults) are becoming increasingly inactive, which puts them at higher risk for lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Data show good and bad habits developed during childhood will transfer over to adulthood. Healthy habits formed early on will decrease disease conditions and positively affect lifelong fitness.
Kids and teens should get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Toddlers and preschool children should play (actively) several times a day. Toddlers should get at least 60 minutes of active play every day and preschoolers should have at least 120 minutes of active play every day. - CDC
Kids can start an exercise program at any age. Don't worry; it will not stunt their growth. A child's maturity should be used as a determinate as to the type of fitness program they participate in. Exercises with complex instructions, like Olympic lifts, take focus and body awareness/control to complete correctly. Developmentally most young children will have a difficult time performing these exercises. You mustn't set them up for failure. The first exposure to exercise should be a positive one. I find it is essential to make the early workouts fun and entertaining. Knowing that a bad experience in early childhood may turn a kid off exercise for life, it is crucial to make the initial interactions enjoyable.
It is self-evident that children are not tiny adults; however, most general fitness principles for adults can be applied to kids. At younger ages, around seven and under, I would focus on motor control, bodyweight exercises and some resistance band work. Here are some basic activities you can give a youngster:
A variety of jumping movements
Monkey bar hangs and pull-ups
Speed band pulls and pushes
Medicine ball throws and slams
Sliding pikes and adductions
There are lots of ways to make these workouts fun and effective. It is important to inquire about the child's interests and develop a program around that framework. If a child is into sports, you can create a sports-specific program, or if they enjoy video games, you can even cultivate a fitness program with a specific narrative attached. You are only limited by your creativity. Once a child masters a movement, you can progress them to a more complex exercise or add resistance. Just try to keep it fun!
If you determine a child can focus and pay attention to instructions, they may be ready to start a resistance training program. You can't go wrong getting strong at any age. Youth weight training programs have a multitude of benefits:
Improves cognitive performance
Increases sleep quality and duration
Decreases mortality risk
Helps build grit (mental toughness)
Positively impacts self-perception & confidence
Slows the natural aging process and decreases the risk of disease
Reduces body fat and increase lean muscle
Help maintain bone density health
Decreases injury risk
Improves overall athleticism
Start with fun and easy exercises and the children might love it. Develop these habits early on and it could be the beginning of a lifelong devotion to health and fitness.