Summer is the perfect time to get out of the house to enjoy some fresh air and exercise. Fitness is a lifelong investment that starts in childhood. Developing healthy fitness habits early promotes healthy behaviors, improves self-esteem and facilitates wellness throughout life.
Always remember that parents are the best role model for both inspiring an active fitness lifestyle, and also for promoting safety as a top priority in sports and recreation.
Exercise Ideas for Toddlers
Children as young as two benefit from fitness activities. Toddlers like to explore and they play to learn more about their world. They prefer unstructured play such as running, swinging, climbing, kicking a ball, and playing in the sand box. Toddlers also enjoy interacting with peers to improve socialization skills.
Exercise Ideas for 4-5 Year Olds
Regular physical activity helps children play and meet the demands and challenges of daily life. The best way to promote physical activity in children is to limit sedentary time like watching TV, playing video games, etc… Children in this age group demonstrate improved coordination and the ability to participate in more organized games such as hide and seek, tag, and more turn-taking games like kicking or throwing a ball. Four and five year olds may begin riding a bike without training wheels but only in traffic-free areas due to a lack in judgment and awareness. Unstructured play in this age group is also important to allow for learning of new skills through practice.
Exercise Ideas for 6-12 Year Olds
Parents can show their support and the importance of sports and recreation to their children by attending sporting events or coaching their child’s team. This age group desires to learn new skills and apply them in both team sports like soccer, baseball, and field hockey; and individual activities like running, swimming, karate (or other martial arts), and tennis. Parents should be aware of complaints of aches and pains that often come with the quick growth occurring at this age. Young athletes should complete a proper warm-up and stretching routine to prevent muscular injuries.
Exercise Ideas for 13-18 Year Olds
Historically there has been a a steady downward trend in fitness levels at this age, although recently this has leveled off. See this article about how the levels of overweight children in America have reached a plateau in recent years. Developmentally, teens can learn any activity that they enjoy non-competitive to non-competitive sports and recreation such as organized team sports, skateboarding, in-line skating, rock climbing, and weight training.
Teenagers should follow the guidelines of exercising at least three times per week for at least 30 minutes each session. Teens may go through periods of awkwardness and decreased coordination due to the physical changes of their body during puberty. Appropriate warm-up, stretching, and proper equipment can help to avoid injury.
Exercise Ideas for Parents and Adults
Parents and adults should also be setting a good example by participating in physical activities themselves. Sports available to adults include recreational soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, and pretty much any other sport you can think of. Check your local town hall and high school for information about recreational sports clubs in your area. Parents can also try weight training, rowing, martial arts, cardio classes, bike riding, rock climbing, mountain climbing… the list is endless. If you don’t know what you like, pick an activity and give it a try. Try this beginners weight training program, or this generic full body exercise routine.
More on Childhood Health and Obesity
National attention has been gained in the awareness of childhood health and obesity issues. Healthy eating and nutrition, along with increased exercise, can help children combat this fairly new phenomenon. Physical activity is important because it can promote life long fitness and health, increase life expectancy, control weight, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improve psychological well-being.
No matter what, parents should remember that events should always be fun. Make sure your family is safe during summer activities. Parents should consult their child’s pediatrician with any questions prior to starting a fitness program or engaging in organized sports or recreation.