Kids and Fitness: Make It Fun!

Published: January 5th, 2013 |

Avoid childhood obesity in seven minutes a day.

We all need to get up and move more, but for kids, vigorous activity may make a big difference in keeping them at a healthy weight—and it doesn’t require a lot of time. In fact, just 7 minutes a day of vigorous activity may help prevent children from being overweight and keep their systolic blood pressure at normal levels, according to a recent study at the University of Alberta. On an intensity scale of 0 to 10, “vigorous” activity is about a 7 or an 8, and is the equivalent to running, like in a game of tag.

To get kids moving, the key is to make it fun. “The biggest thing when [working] with kids is getting them to do natural movement,” says Steve Ettinger, CSCS, a children’s fitness expert and author of Wallie Exercises. This can mean running and jumping around in the yard, or playing sports, like soccer or basketball. Structured workouts, too, can be fun for kids and can be a good parent-child activity if you exercise together. Help your kids have active fun with these tips from Ettinger:

What precautions should parents keep in mind?

It’s important for parents to know any sort of conditions that kids may have before undertaking a new workout. Ettinger recommends that “kids should get regular checkups to know if there are any underlying conditions that disqualify [them] from vigorous activity.”

Just like adults, kids need to take safety measures when exercising, and may need more supervision. “If you’re a 15-year-old kid, you should be able to go jogging on your own,” Ettinger says, “[but] when it’s a workout with weights involved, then I would want somebody present.”

Lastly, always remember to stay hydrated and not push kids too far. There’s a real difference between simple muscle fatigue from exercise and actual pain and they should always stop when there’s pain.

Do you need special equipment?
“The younger the kid, the less equipment you need, generally. If your child is five years old, it just needs to be fun to engage him or her,” Ettinger says. He recommends resistance bands as useful, inexpensive gear for teens. Keep kids interested by mixing up the gear—jump ropes, ice skates, even balloons (get creative!) are all fair game to fight boredom and get moving.

What are good workout ideas?
If you’re looking for a more structured routine, Ettinger recommends stacking exercises together with short rest periods of 0 to 15 seconds in between each exercise. Try this to start:

Do each move consecutively, with 15 seconds rest in between exercises. Repeat 3 times, resting 1 minute between rounds.

1. 15 squats
2. 10 jump squats
3. 10 dips (off of a chair, couch or bench)

Add these for a longer workout or do them separately. Do each move consecutively, with 15 seconds rest in between exercises. Repeat 2 times, resting 1 minute between rounds.

1. 10 lunges (on both sides)
2. 10 pushups
3. Mountain Climbers for 30-60 seconds

Keep in mind that this is just one exercise routine you can do at home with minimal space and no equipment. Activities like mountain biking, dancing, rock climbing, and jogging all count as vigorous activities, too!

–Will Markel

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Keywords: Active Living, children, family, fitness, sports