As the summer winds down the TV ads for “back-to-school” sales are popping up. The first thing that comes to mind is what school supplies do they need? However, I would like you to also consider whether your kids are ready for gym class and sports participation. When little Aiden or Chloe come home and say they want to go out for the soccer team are they ready? Help your kids engage in the following exercises to get the most out of school and sports this season.
One of the best sports that I recommend for young boys and girls is to try gymnastics. Having been a gymnast myself, this is a sport that creates agility and coordination that can be applied to any sport they apply themselves to in the future. Even if your child is not interested in sports, they should still be exercising daily.
Body Weight Exercises
Kids that aren’t in sports should be encouraged to get moving. This means putting away the video games and getting off the couch. Just like adults, they should engage in a healthy balance of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and flexibility. With regards to strength training, calisthenics like those in gymnastics are ideal. This includes body weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, dips, sit-ups, air squats, lunges, etc. Make it fun by challenging your child to a push-up contest or make it a small circuit. The competition will be motivating and it will be less like you are ordering them to exercise.
Kids need cardio just as much as adults. Just going for a jog is usually quite boring to kids. They need a challenge, like chasing a ball, frisbee, or even a friend. Younger kids may need to do endurance in shorter bursts or intervals than older kids. The activity should be breathing harder but not gasping for air or falling over. Kids should warm up and cool down, although this is easier said than done.
As part of warm ups and cool downs, kids should work on their flexibility. In most gymnastics classes, the warm up consists of some jumping jacks, jogs, and active stretches. Static stretching should be done after an activity and should involve large muscle groups like those around the hips, shoulders, and core.
In very active kids, especially those participating in sports, it can be difficult to hold them back. Kids are at risk for over-training and over-use injuries just as much as adults. For instance, if your little leaguer is throwing too many pitches in a practice or game they can be at risk for injuries to the growth plates in the shoulder and elbow. If your child has complaints of soreness (you should ask them if they are sore) they may need a day of rest just as an adult would. They should do a different activity or decrease the intensity that day.
Nutritional support is essential to that recovery process. Proper nutrition including protein and vegetables while avoiding sugary snacks and drinks is critical to your child’s muscle health and physical and mental well-being. Similarly, proper hydration is essential in warm weather activities. Teach your child to drink water before they become thirsty.