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Making Fitness a Way of Life

 Some school-aged children can’t wait to get home from school, stake out a place on the couch, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening watching TV. Physical activity is just not on their radar screens, at least not by choice.

Stopping the Slippery Slope of Childhood Obesity:

Not surprisingly, children who fit this profile may be on a slippery slope to a life ofobesity. There are a lot of them. Several years ago, when a group of children 6 to 12 years old participated in programs of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, only 50% of girls and 64% of boys could walk or run a mile in less than 10 minutes. If that same study were conducted today, when the obesity epidemic seems to be gaining momentum, those statistics might be even more troubling.

Making Exercise Into a Lifelong Habit:

During your child’s school-age years, your goal should be not only to get your child moving, but to turn exercise into a lifelong habit. There are plenty of opportunities for your child to keep active.

Getting Involved in Organized

Body Composition and Flexibility

 These 2 areas help remind us that children are different from adults and each other. It may seem ridiculous to speak about body composition and flexibility in kids because we all know they are mostly made of Play-Doh. However, it is important to discuss the general changes in body tissues that occur during growth and the various effects these changes have on exercise and sports participation.

Girls and boys can play together until about the third grade. After this point, it is a good idea to start the transition of separating boys and girls in contact-type sports. This gives plenty of time for puberty to start and not have a 4’2″, 70-pound boy playing against a 5’9″, 130-pound girl. Remember, the average ages that puberty begins is much different for girls and boys. Even from early childhood, girls in general have more body fat than boys. That is just the way the cards are dealt. Differences in body fat stay throughout childhood and then increase in girls once they hit puberty. Boys have a more dramatic change in body

Aerobic Training

 Aerobic training strengthens the heart and lungs and improves muscle function. One goal of aerobic training is to enhance sports performance and to improve training response. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about aerobic training exercises.

What are aerobic training exercises?

Aerobic training exercises are any activities that raise heart rate and make breathing somewhat harder. The activity you are doing must be constant and continuous. Examples of aerobic activities are

  • Walking or hiking
  • Jogging or running
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • In-line skating
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Exercising on a stair-climber or elliptical machine

Other activities, when done in a constant and continuous way, can be aerobic, such as tennis, racquetball, squash, and the martial arts. Weight training, however, is not aerobic because it is done in short bursts of a few minutes at a time.

How does aerobic training improve endurance?

Aerobic training increases the rate at which oxygen inhaled is passed on from the lungs and heart to the bloodstream to be used by the muscles. Aerobically fit athletes can exercise longer and harder before feeling tired. During exercise they have a slower heart rate, slower breathing

Strength Training

Strength training (or resistance training) uses a resistance to increase an individual’s ability to exert force. It involves the use of weight machines, free weights, bands or tubing, or the individual’s own body weight. This is not the same as Olympic lifting, power lifting, or body building, which requires the use of ballistic movements and maximum lifts and is not recommended for children.

What are the risks of strength training?

The risks of participating in an unsupervised strength training program include injury to the discs and growth plates of the spine and even occasionally death from weights landing on the chest wall. A well-supervised program has a coach-to-student ratio of 1:10 or less and proper certification of the instructor. Significant injuries are rare in well-supervised programs, but can include stress fractures of the shoulder (osteolysis) or spine (spondylolysis), muscle strains, disc herniation, and tendinitis. Misuse of anabolic steroids to improve physique is another possible risk.

What are the benefits of strength training?

Strength training improves muscle strength and stamina. Regular participation in strength training improves cardiac (heart) health, body composition, and bone mineral density, and decreases cholesterol levels. It is particularly helpful foroverweight (obese)

Sports Physiology

Refining and perfecting motor skills, developing visual precision, and improving mental sharpness are just a few of the many achievements happening in the young, growing body that contribute significantly to your youngster’s enjoyable and successful reality sports experience. Think about shaking up a soft drink can and not opening the top—there is so much rapid change just waiting to happen in these kids.

Sometimes they can sense that they are close to gaining a new skill and they just about burst trying. Suddenly it happens, and they cheer not only with excitement, but relief. Hopefully you can see that each stage of development varies in the length of time it takes to gain accomplishment with a certain skill and also in the completeness of skills actually developed. Some youth will acquire a skill fairly quickly, while others take longer.

Some youth will develop a certain skill very well, while others struggle. That’s why certain kids gravitate toward certain activities—the beauty of the variability of human beings.

Think back to your childhood for a moment. Did you excel at catching and hitting baseballs, or were you hand-eye challenged and avoided that type of activity altogether? Did

Parenting an Athlete

What Parents Can Do to Create a Positive Youth Sports Experience

  • Support for your child must be unconditional.
  • Be patient for the process, and enjoy it.
  • Understand how the developmental progression works for sports skills.
  • Be knowledgeable that many of the developmental milestones for sports skills cannot be accelerated beyond their natural limit.
  • Realize that physical, chemical, and mental development all affect ability and all progress along different timetables.
  • Support achievements as they occur. This will reduce pressure to achieve skills that are not quite ready.
  • Remember, your child has his or her own likes and dislikes and should be able to participate without pressure to choose a certain activity.
  • Remember that there are developmental patterns for chemical changes that allow your child to be able to progress in training intensity when it is time.
  • Understand the extra changes that occur in the puberty transition from child to teenager.
  • Don’t overreact to normal developmental processes and changes that occur during puberty and may temporarily affect ability.
  • Understand the profound developmental effect of a firm positive

Gymnastics

While not all injuries can be prevented, the risk of injuries can be reduced. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about how to prevent gymnastics injuries. Also included is an overview of common gymnastics injuries.

Injury Prevention and Safety Tips

Coaches

It is important for coaches to be experienced and familiar with the rules. Coaches should also be certified in CPR and first aid.

Spotters

Proper supervision and spotting should be available at all times.

Rules

“Clowning around” should not be tolerated in the gym, especially around the foam safety pit or trampolines.

Equipment

Safety gear should fit properly and be well maintained.

  • Clothing that allows for easy movement. (Body piercing should not be allowed around the face or mouth.)
  • Wrist pads/braces like “Tiger Paws” to protect the wrist and decrease wrist pain.
  • Heel supports like Tuli’s heel cups placed in an ankle brace or Cheetahs (which have a heel cup built into a wrap around the ankle brace) cushion the heel for the barefoot athlete.
  • Grips to protect the palms. Basic palm protectors are used by beginners. Dowel grips are used by the advanced gymnast.
  • Apparatus should

Mental Skills Needed for Sports

It’s not enough to understand the developmental milestones of growth and the maturation process of skills for sports activities. Nor is it enough to appreciate the chemical development that affects ability. Yes, all the physical changes, chemical changes, and developmental sequences must be considered and incorporated into the challenges of accomplishment and performance in the youth sports experience.

Yet even all of those ingredients do not make up the whole enchilada. There is still more that is necessary to complete the menu – the rice, beans, and salsa.

The development of mental (psychological) skills is also incredibly important for these youngsters and completes the third part of the triangle of components that all mesh together to influence the athletic potential of your child. All 3 are of major significance and really cannot function maximally without the other 2 being in place.

Your child may be ready for intense competition from a standpoint of muscular control, technique, and skill level, but not from a mental or emotional standpoint. Your child may have successfully mastered how to integrate skills with maturing chemical processes of speed, strength, and endurance, but still be insecure or

Development of Sports Skills

Sports skills are acquired in a very progressive sequence. Not every child will acquire every skill equally or at the same rate, but most youth acquire them in the same order. So give yourself and your kid a break, just like when she was learning to walk. Pour some tea and learn what exciting things are happening a mile a minute in that cute little bundle of energy you call your child.

During the first 2 years of life, many responses from your child are primarily reflex actions. Touch her cheek and she turns to find food. Touch the ball of the foot and the toes curl over. Touch his hand and his fingers grasp. Proud, beaming fathers of their firstborn son already dream of a football star. Stop there. Do not put sand in rattles to make baby dumbbells. Do not install a basketball hoop on the side of the crib.

Scientific research tells us that those futile attempts will not work no matter how much you want a head start on Johnny’s 3-point shot. Natural curiosity and interaction with the environment will stimulate the growth of motor activity.

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Choosing a Sports Program

Childhood sports programs have grown significantly in recent years. Millions of boys and girls are now involved in Little League baseball, youth soccer, community basketball leagues, competitive swimming teams, and similar types of activities. Happily, sports programs are becoming increasingly avail­able for girls, whose need for such activities and whose ability to participate is equal to that of boys.

If your own child joins one or more of these programs, he will have a won­derful opportunity for fun and fitness. At the same time, however, a youngster poorly matched to a sports team—or who must deal with unrealistic expecta­tions from a parent, a coach, or even himself—can have a very negative sports experience, filled with stress and frustration.

Before your child enters a youth sports program, evaluate his objectives as well as your own. Although both child and parent may fantasize about using this as a stepping-stone toward becoming a professional athlete or an Olympic champion, few participants have the talent and dedication to reach those heights.

Even more modest goals are far from guaranteed: Only one in four out­standing elementary school athletes becomes a sports standout in high school. Only one in more than

Cheerleading

Cheerleading is often thought of as a sport only for high school and college athletes. However, it is becoming more popular among younger athletes as well.

Cheerleading shares many of the same types of injuries seen in other jumping sports. However, the risk of injury can be reduced. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to prevent cheerleading injuries. Also included is an overview of common cheerleading injuries.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Equipment. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators (AACCA) recommends using mats or a soft, even surface when learning new skills as well as during competition.
  • Fitness. Athletes should maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season. Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and sport-specific conditioning. Also important are proper warm-up and cool-down exercises.
  • Coaches. It is important for coaches to be experienced and familiar with the rules. Cheerleaders are less likely to be injured if their coach has completed a coaching class such as from the AACCA Safety Course; has more than 1 year of coaching experience; and has a college degree. All coaches should be familiar with the National Federation of

Weight Training and Lifting

Somehow, something got lost in translation when muscles changed from being used for gathering food to being a way of life and look.

It is so standard to look a certain way that strength is not always an issue; simply how you appear seems most important. Young kids are exposed to the “beautiful people” so much that it is normal now for junior high and high school boys to pump weights and shave their body to get that magazine-model look. Until a decade ago, those rituals were reserved for those involved in bodybuilding and swimming (the price to pay for wearing a Speedo). But now, appearance is so paramount that kids want muscles—just because!

It is astonishing to know what is going on in our schools. The use of anabolic steroids is increasing to levels we don’t even know among junior high and high school students. Some are athletes succumbing to the pressure of doing anything to win. Some are not athletes at all, but use such dangerous drugs just to look good.

Go figure. Who could imagine that young teens addicted to steroids would become the cover article of Newsweek?

Overcoming Obstacles to Physical Activity

There are many benefits of regular physical activity; however, people often have many excuses for not being more physically active. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraging families to consider all the benefits of being physically active and how to overcome some obstacles. Each family member can take a step toward becoming more physically active by filling out the physical activity plan.

Benefits of being physically active

Being physically active is one way you can

  • Have fun—this is important!
  • Spend time with friends.
  • Improve your body image.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increase energy levels.
  • Improve your self-image.
  • Feel stronger.
  • Increase your endurance for sport or hobbies.
  • Get muscles or definition.
  • Decrease stress.

Overcoming common obstacles

The following are suggestions on how to overcome 4 common barriers to physical activity.

1. “I don’t have time.”

What you can try

  • Build activity into your day: walk or ride your bike for transportation.
  • Get off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Plan fun, “active” activities with friends and family.
  • Sign up for physical education at your school.
  • Walk around the mall twice before you start shopping.

2. “I don’t like sports”

The FITT Plan for Physical Activity

Physical activity is important for everyone in the family. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics summarizing the FITT method and includes general fitness tips and an activity log.

FITT method

FITT (frequency, intensity, time, and type) is one way to remember the general guidelines for what should be included in a fitness plan. Remember, it’s important to keep in mind that each family member’s fitness goals will be different based on age, sex, current fitness level, and available resources. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions.

Frequency—Do some type of physical activity every day.

Intensity—Choose an activity that is at least moderate in intensity, and also try to add a few more vigorous activities over the week. Vigorous activity is activity that makes you breathe hard and sweat. (Reaching a certain heart rate is not necessary.)

Time (duration)—Plan on a total time of at least 60 minutes of activity each day. This can be done all at once or added together over several shorter 10- to 15-minute blocks of activity. Breaking it up into smaller blocks of time is a great way to start a new program

Physical Activity and Your Child’s Safety

Do you live in a neighborhood where you aren’t comfortable having your child play outdoors unsupervised? These days, millions of parents feel this way. They’re convinced that it simply isn’t safe for their youngsters to be active outdoors, particularly on their own. And if parents are working during the day, it’s not surprising that they don’t want their youngsters spending time outside when they’re not home.

One of the best options for you to explore is whether there’s a formal after-school program in your neighborhood in which your child can participate that involves physical activity. For example, call the YMCA in your community, or the Boys & Girls Club. Enroll your child in a dance class to learn jazz or tap. Support your child in joining a youth bowling league. Be on the lookout for activities that are available in your community that include boys and girls.

Remember that participation is the key. Your child will be supervised while staying active, and you can pick him up on the way home from work. Keeping him busy after school is the key to making sure he stays away from the television set.

Physical Activity = Better Health

Pediatricians continue to be disturbed by the trends they’re seeing in the levels of physical activity of children, which appear to be headed in the wrong direction. One survey concluded that less than 25% of children in grades 4 through 12 participate in 20 minutes of vigorous activity or 30 minutes of any physical activity per day. Particularly with weight management as a goal, those numbers aren’t good enough.

Not only will regular physical activity help your child lose weight and maintain that weight loss, but it has many other benefits. For example, if your child exercises regularly, he’ll have

  • Stronger bones and joints
  • Greater muscle strength
  • A decrease in body fat
  • Improved flexibility
  • A healthier cardiovascular system (thus reducing his risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure)
  • A reduced likelihood of developing diabetes
  • More energy
  • A greater ability to handle stress
  • Improvements in self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Greater social acceptance by physically active peers
  • Opportunities to make new friends
  • Better concentration at school

Getting Started

You should have a clear picture of your child’s activity level—and whether he needs to change course. Is he watching too much TV? Is he spending too little time playing outdoors after school or on weekends?

As

Tips to Get Body Fit

What can I do to get more fit?

Any type of regular, physical activity can improve your fitness and your health. The most important thing is that you keep moving!

Exercise should be a regular part of your day, like brushing your teeth, eating, and sleeping. It can be in gym class, joining a sports team, or working out on your own. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Stay positive and have fun. A good mental attitude is important. Find an activity that you think is fun. You are more likely to keep with it if you choose something you like. A lot of people find it’s more fun to exercise with someone else, so see if you can find a friend or family member to be active with you.
  • Take it one step at a time. Small changes can add up to better fitness. For example, walk or ride your bike to school or to a friend’s house instead of getting a ride. Get on or off the bus several blocks away and walk the rest of the way. Use the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator.
  • Get your heart

Finding Time to Be Active

See if this scenario sounds familiar—your child has come home from school with 2 hours of homework, including studying for a math test the following day. He also needs to start working on a science fair project. And don’t forget the clarinet lesson that’s on his calendar as well. There seems to be barely enough time to fit in dinner and a bath.

No wonder some kids feel that they just don’t have time for physical activity. Their schedules are filled to overflowing, and when they’re overbooked, it’s easy for physical activity to fall by the wayside.

As a parent, you need to intervene to make sure your child has time for all the things that are important. Whether he’s overweight, physical activity needs to be a priority.

Sit down with your child and structure his time after school so he can fit in everything that’s most essential. For example, in planning the following day, you might say something like, “You have a block of after-school time tomorrow. Maybe the time immediately after school isn’t the best time for homework, because it will take up the daylight hours you could be

Aerobic Capacity and Training Ability

Aerobic capacity refers to a child’s ability to sustain a certain level of aerobic activity for a certain length of time. An aerobic activity is one that requires oxygen exchange in the blood to a greater degree than other activities, such as running versus strength training. Being able to sustain aerobic activity for longer periods of time depends on the body’s ability to transport oxygen to the tissues and muscles of the body and then use it efficiently once it gets there. In the scientific world, our aerobic capacity can be measured and is called VO2 max.

In a broken nutshell, VO2 max is the maximum level of the body’s ability to effectively take up oxygen, transport it, and use it for sustained exercise energy.

Normally, in adults, this ability to use oxygen can be improved with training and exercise. Improvements can be made with as little as 15 to 20 minutes of exercise 3 times a week. If you exercise more, your aerobic capacity can continue to improve to a certain point before it levels off. The interesting point about children is that even when recommendations for adult exercise are used, only

11 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active

Did You Know?

  • Only 1 in 3 children are physically active every day.
  • Less than 50% of the time spent in sports practice, games, and physical education class involves moving enough to be considered physical activity.
  • Children and teens spend more than 7 hours per day on average using TVs, computers, phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment.
  • About 1 out of 3 children is either overweight or obese in the United States.
  • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

Getting Started

Parents can play a key role in helping their child become more physically active.

Here are 11 ways to get started:

  1. Talk with your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor can help your child understand why physical activity is important. Your child’s doctor can also suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
  2. Find a fun activity. Help your child find a sport that she enjoys. The more she enjoys the activity, the more likely she will continue it. Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together.
  3. Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weight lifting or a 3-mile