Tagged with: children exercise fitness working with kids
The child obesity epidemic in the United States—and around the world—has made it more important than ever that kids stay active every day, whether they’re working with a trainer or playing sports.
However, working with kids is different than working with adults. Their growing bodies are more susceptible to injury and they’re more likely to burn out if they aren’t having fun, giving them a bad view of exercise that could carry on into adulthood.
Whether you are a parent, personal trainer or coach, when working with kids to help them stay fit and healthy, remember these five tips. They’ll help you keep kids safe and healthy and show them that an active lifestyle can be fun.
1. Warm Up and Stretches
Stretching has many positive benefits and is often overlooked. “Good flexibility can decrease your risk of injury by helping your joints move through their full range of motion,” explains Michael Nelson, D.C. “To reap the full benefits of stretching, you have to stretch smart and modify or adjust to suit your body’s particular needs.”
This is especially important for kids because they need to increase blood circulation, improve range of motion, and maximize muscular coordination before beginning any physical activity. Always start an exercise session with a 5 to 10-minute warm-up that consists of stretching, jogging or jumping jacks. After the warm up, kids will feel more motivated to move on to the actual workout, and their bodies will be ready too.
2. Start with Bodyweight Exercises
Start all kids with simple exercises that use only their own bodyweight. Bodyweight exercise examples are push-ups, pull-ups, squats, jumping and more.
Once the child is comfortable with bodyweight exercises, they can move on to using dumbbells and weights that will further strengthen and build their muscles. It’s important for adults and coaches to supervise weight training because if it’s done improperly, it can lead to severe injury. At such a young age, that injury could affect them for the rest of their life.
It’s important to note that trainers and coaches not push kids too hard, or encourage them to lift too “heavy” when weight training. Their bodies are still growing and developing, they aren’t as strong as they might think they are.
3. Make it Fun
If children are forced to do something, they won’t have any interest in doing it; they may even learn to dislike it. It’s important that you make physical exercise fun for them, rather than treating it as something they’re required to do.
Girls on The Run, a non-profit running program that teaches health and confidence for young girls, is a great option if it’s offered in your area. Getting involved with church or local sports teams can also be a fun, positive experience for kids.
Instead of picking a team for your kids, take it one step further, and give them a list of options to let them choose what or where they want to play. If all of their friends are playing on the same team, see if you can sign up your kid too. When they’re having fun and get to make their own decisions, they’ll be more motivated to exercise.
4. Don’t Forget About Nutrition
With busy schedules and even busier parents, fast food is rapidly becoming the go-to for family meals. While it’s convenient, frequently consuming fast food at an early age can stunt growth and eventually lead to obesity.
Use your coaching or training positions as an opportunity to teach these young athletes the consequences of poor nutrition and conversely, how they can properly fuel their growing bodies.
Take the time to replace an exercise session with a lesson on nutrition because if kids start to eat healthy at an early age, they’re more likely to develop a lifelong habit.
5. Beware of Repetitive Stress Injuries
A whopping 50 percent of all pediatric sports-related injuries are attributed to repetitive stress injuries. Repetitive stress injuries, also known as overuse injuries, affect muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and growth plates.
They usually occur when a certain muscle group is overworked, and children are more susceptible because they’re still growing. Repetitive stress injuries occur when a certain muscle group is overworked, and children are more susceptible because they’re still growing.
“Playing too much of one sport or overdoing any single exercise can also cause a repetitive stress injury, so make sure exercise routines are frequently modified,” explains Mike Hoenig, M.D. and sports medicine specialist. Duel-sport athletes should also be careful and take the time to rest, so they don’t overwork their growing body.
While precautions like stretching, using proper equipment, maintaining nutrition and getting enough rest can help to prevent and reduce repetitive stress injuries, be aware of signs of overtraining, like lack of motivation and extreme soreness, which would make them even more susceptible to repetitive sports injuries.
For people who are working with kids to help them stay active and healthy, remember that these young athletes are still growing. Encourage them to do their best, beware of pushing them too hard and always keep the workouts and training sessions fun.