This post is brought to you by Raphael Konforti, the Fitness Education Coordinator for Youfit.
Working out with your kids is a great way to build a happy and healthy family. Active time spent together builds a healthy foundation for your children physically and mentally. Research has found a connection between participation in recreational activities at a young age and health later in life. Additionally, exercising and playing sports is a terrific way for kids to learn how to interact socially. In fact, the average American child has only four to seven minutes per day of unstructured outdoor play time and over seven hours in front of a screen.
Appropriate workouts for kids are dependent on literal age as well as biological age. Literal age is a measure of mental and emotional development. Whereas, biological age is a measure of physical development. Kids grow at different speeds which impacts what type of exercise they’re ready for. The categories below will help you get your kids active at an appropriate – and safe – pace.
Young Kids: Ages 5-10
The main goal for this age group is making physical activity a fun part of their day. The focus should be on active time and having more fun vs getting stronger or faster. Young kids should simply be learning how to control their body and movements. Importantly, the goal is to learn to enjoy movement and have fun.
Try not to follow too much structure, they’ll have plenty of structure later in life. All these activities are geared towards play:
- Play games (Simon says, tag, balloon ball, animal races, chase the bubbles)
- Pass around a ball (Dog’s aren’t the only ones who love to play fetch)
- Run goofy relay race or set up a fun obstacle course (Climb over couches, crawl under chairs, run through a zig zag maze)
Not only will this type of activity teach them to enjoy exercise but it actually strengthen tendons, ligaments, bones making them less prone to injury.
preTeens: Ages 10-13
Fun should still be a focus for preteens, but they can also begin to learn fundamental gym exercise form – without heavy weight. Playing sports and incorporating sports training is also a viable form of exercise. If pre teens want to do gym workouts they should focus on using light weight or body weight to learn form – using heavy weights can stunt growth. Plyometric training is another good option for this age group since it uses body weight. Training at this age group is learning how to move more efficiently and effectively.
- Sport-specific relays (ie. Dribbling a soccer ball though some cones)
- Practice correct exercise form (Use bodyweight or an old broomstick in place of barbells)
- Play sports (A variety of sports is best at this age to avoid burnout or over training)
Continue to create a positive association with physical activity. When joining competitive sports children can sometimes feel too much pressure to succeed; especially if they develop physical skills slower than other children. Encourage pre teens to have fun and enjoy the sports they play.
Teenagers Ages 13-16
Teenagers can execute more traditional exercise in the gym. The focus in the gym needs to be on proper form and learning correct movement. Their strength will naturally increase with age and be expedited with resistance training. Focus energy into performing compound movements such as squats, bench press, overhead press, romanian deadlifts, chin ups and farmer’s walks, still keeping weight light and focusing on form. This is also an age where specific sports drills will benefit their development. It’s a great time for parents to take the role of teammate/coach!
- Gym Buddy! (Use your Lime Card and bring your child of at least 13 years old to the gym with you! Keep the focus on good form and avoid increasing weights much.)
- Play sports (Practice various sports drills or just play some one on one.)
Working out with your kid should be a fun time! Make it interactive and enjoyable and they will soon take on the lifelong healthy habit of exercise.
How do you stay active with your child? Let us know in the comments!
Raphael Konforti is the Fitness Education Coordinator for Youfit. He has a Masters of Exercise Science and has worked in many different areas of fitness including collegiate recreation, international resorts and fitness publishing. Aside from the gym, he loves spending his time active and outdoors going surfing, diving, hiking, practicing yoga or pushing cars down the street.