Childhood obesity has reached an all-time high in America and that rate doesn’t look to be slowing on its own. People of all ages benefit from an active life, but starting children on a regular exercise habit at a young age can help them maintain that activity through life.
Children who exercise regularly benefit from:
- Stronger bones
- Increased core strength
- Cardiovascular fitness
- Reduced body fat
- Heightened mood
It’s important to know that preteens are still in a state of physical development as their muscles and bones continue to grow. This can make them susceptible to injury if performing exercises not appropriate for their age group.
The average preteen needs 60 minutes or more of activity every day to maintain a healthy metabolism and weight. Unfortunately, with TV, computers, gaming consoles, and even smart phones and tablets, it can be hard to convince your tween-age youngster to do anything but sit and read their friends’ updates. So what can you do to encourage your child to get out there and have some fun? The key is to find fun exercises they’ll want to do.
Here are some fun ways to get them out and exercising:
- Swimming – Great full body aerobic activity that keeps the whole body moving while working on breathing endurance.
- Hiking – A mild nature trail can be a great start, worked up to something longer with plenty of hills and valleys. The varied ground helps build both sets of leg muscles while giving their heart and lungs plenty of work.
- Jumping Rope – Teaches timing, coordination, and physical awareness while at the same time being a great cardio workout.
The tween body is not set to build muscle mass until puberty. If you want to introduce some weight training for your preteen, it’s important the goal shouldn’t be to create new muscle, but instead to teach proper technique and help tone their existing muscles. This is especially true if they’ve lived a particularly sedentary lifestyle previously.
A good place to start are exercises that use their own body as resistance. Good exercises include:
If you want to get them started with using weight machines, take it slow. First, use the standard weight machines without any weight used. Follow the instructions, showing them the proper technique. If there is any uncertainty about how to use the machine, ask a gym trainer. Once your child has practiced without any weights, and both you and your child feel confident in the motions, use five pound increments, slowly building up to 10 to 20 pounds to start.
Keep It Fun
Whatever you and your child decide to do, remember that exercise for your tween should be entertaining. Otherwise, it’ll simply become another chore they dread and will do anything to avoid. If approached with enthusiasm and kept regular, you build a solid foundation for a happy, healthy lifestyle they’re more likely to stick with as they get older.
Sources: CDC, Healthline, Live Strong