How to Stay Fit and Beautifully Healthy
Studies show that today, more children are obese than ever. Additionally, the number of obese children is growing at a significant rate — a situation that is reaching epidemic proportion — and the problem is largely due to an inactive lifestyle. Obesity in children can have a negative impact on quality of life and can even shorten life expectancy. For these reasons, child fitness is a common concern for parents and healthcare providers. Fitness training for children requires special considerations, and should be approached with care. Here are steps for how to improve your child’s fitness.
1 Familiarize yourself with the components of fitness.
Childhood fitness is multifaceted, encompassing a number of aspects having to do with health and well-being.
Flexibility pertains to the body’s range of motion. The goal of flexibility training is to have maximum range of motion without pain or stiffness.
Strength refers to the amount of weight the muscles can push, pull or support. However, strength training also strengthens the bones.
Cardiovascular endurance is the heart’s ability to withstand extended periods of activity.
Muscular endurance is the amount of time the muscles can withstand pushing, pulling or supporting weight.
Body composition is the amount (or percentage) of fat versus non-fat (bone, skin, muscle, etc.) in the body.
2 Assess your child’s fitness level.
This will help you identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses and give you a good starting point for developing an effective child fitness plan.
Gather tools that will help you take accurate measurements of your child’s current fitness level. These tools include a scale, treadmill, stopwatch, metronome, blood pressure scope, stethoscope, exercise mat, stadiometer, yardstick, anthropometric tape, skin fold caliper and a course (outlined with cones or other marking materials).
Use the tools to test your child’s fitness level in each component of fitness: strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and body composition.
Record the measurements so that you can refer back to them as your child’s fitness level progresses. This data will not only provide encouragement for your child, but it will also help you identify areas in which your child may be able to improve.
Consult with a qualified personal trainer if you need guidance for how to perform a child fitness assessment, or if you do not have all of the necessary tools.
3 Learn of the anatomical and physiological differences between children and adults.
This is necessary to your child’s safety. Keep in mind that every child is different, and that your child may be strong in some areas and weak in other areas.
Because children grow in spurts, they are always in the process of acclimation and may lack coordination. This makes them more vulnerable to injury, and any plan to improve child fitness should account for childhood growth patterns.
Children’s core muscles those muscles in the hips, back and abdomen area are not fully developed and are therefore weaker than the core muscles of adults. Core muscles serve to stabilize the entire body and a lack of core strength can compromise fitness in children by making children susceptible to injury.
Children often lack flexibility, which is an integral part of fitness and a preventative factor when it comes to injury. Therefore, flexibility training should be incorporated into any childhood fitness program.
4 Develop a childhood fitness plan for your child.
It should be based on the dimensions of fitness, your assessment of your child’s fitness level and your knowledge of the anatomical and physiological differences between adults and children.
Begin by considering hobbies and interests your child has, as well as your child’s natural skills and talents. For example, if your child has an interest in the martial arts, then karate lessons may be a good idea; if your child thrives in social situations, then you might want to consider team sports.
Incorporate a variety of activities into the fitness plan. This not only keeps the routine fun and challenging for your child, but it also ensures that you are addressing each of the aspects of fitness mentioned above.
Your child fitness plan should include 60 minutes of physical activity every day, incorporating 3 total hours of strength training (for muscles and bones) per week.