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Category Archives: fitness

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) youth because it increases lean body mass and metabolic rate without the extra stress on the body. In some sports (like swimming or tennis), strength training may prevent common rotator cuff problems. Research also shows a possible reduction in knee injuries in girls when strength training is combined with a plyometric (jumping) program.

Who should not participate in strength training?

Strength training is not recommended for people with the following:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Seizure disorders
  • Prior history of childhood cancers treated with chemotherapy

Children with complex congenital heart disease should get an OK by a pediatric cardiologist before starting a strength training program.

When can my child start strength training?

The proper age is based on the following:

  • Maturity (if the child has reached certain developmental milestones)
  • The type of sport the child wants to play
  • A desire to participate
  • The discipline to train several times a week
  • The ability to listen and follow directions

Most young athletes have these characteristics and can maintain proper balance and postural control around 7 or 8 years of age.

What are the key components in a strength training program?

To get the most out of strength training, athletes should

  • Include aerobic training along with strength training.
  • Train 2 to 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Warm up and cool down for at least 10 minutes.
  • Practice all lifts without weights to make sure form and technique are correct. As techniques are mastered, weights can be slowly added.
  • Work all major muscle groups including the core. Joints should be moved through a full range of motion.
  • Do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions.
  • Train for a minimum of 8 weeks.
  • Gradually increase weights by no more than 10% per week.

How can injuries be prevented?

To prevent injuries, keep the following in mind:

  • Use proper techniques when lifting.
  • Adjust machines for height.
  • Always wear proper clothing and closed-toe shoes with good traction.
  • Always weight train with proper supervision and spotting.
  • Start each session with a 10- to 15-minute warm-up. Avoid rapid breathing (hyperventilation), bearing down, or holding your breath while lifting.
  • No 1-repetition maximums, maximum weights, or ballistic maneuvers should be performed before reaching skeletal maturity.
  • Stop lifting at once if pain is felt.

Where can I learn about qualified strength trainers?

There are many different strength training certification programs in the United States. Some require only an open-book test to become certified, while others require a college degree, CPR training, written and practical examinations, and continuing education to maintain certification. We recommend that, at a minimum, the program be certified through the National Committee for Certifying Agencies.

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 you throw well, or did you hate dodgeball in PE class when you had to display your lack of ability in front of the whole class? Ah, now you remember. You may see that mirror image in your child, or you may be wondering how on earth he inherited abilities you do not have.

Even with this variability among children of skills for exercise and sports, it is important to allow each child to individually maximize each skill level in his own time before moving on to the next. Each child is unique and should not be pushed faster than the time required to refine a skill needed to acquire a future skill.

Remember not to become impatient and rob your young one of the chance to gain a particular skill that he has been working on so diligently. Sure, your child can occasionally be trying more advanced parts of a sport, but he should not be rushed to get there before the current skills are mastered.When we were kids in school, next year’s classes were usually built on knowledge from the previous year.

Taking calculus before algebra and geometry would not have made as much sense (although for a non–math wizard like me, I am not sure if calculus would have made sense at any time). It is the same with acquiring the different advancing levels of sports techniques, movements, strategies, and training. One step at a time. One throw at a time. One serve at a time. One jump at a time. One kick at a time.

Motor, visual, and mental skills, along with physical growth, only make up part of the overall picture. They are each contributing parts that all fit together. Have you ever searched for that missing piece that allows you to start to assemble the next large chunk of a complicated puzzle? Advancing maturation of the body and brain allow your child to benefit from advancing physical growth. Sure, these physical changes of growth are obvious.

No one is blind to the fact that when friends get your holiday picture this year, Johnny is 6 inches taller than last year’s picture (which is still on their refrigerator). They usually double-check to make sure you did not skip a year. Girls change shape and start looking at boys; boys start to shave, get more muscles, and look at girls. These physical changes certainly have an effect on their abilities to perform against their opponents as they become stronger, faster, and more skilled. Just growing, however, is not the only answer in the game of sports Jeopardy.

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 foundation of self-esteem on future performance and ability to handle competitive pressure.
  • Redefine success and make sure performance disappointments are not seen as failures that the child might take personally.
  • Teach your child that winning means a lot more than a gold medal (you first have to believe that yourself).
  • Encourage your child any way you can.
  • Find more things your child is doing right than things to criticize.
  • Support by being visible at their events.
  • Keep your comments positive without a lot of addenda or stipulations.
  • Help your children take some responsibilities for their sport without making them feel overwhelmed with duties.
  • Watch for warning signs of burnout or avoidance.
  • Remember your child is a child, not a child-sized adult.
  • Help your child set realistic goals (not your goals).
  • Allow changes in sports, and encourage exposure to different sports.
  • Instill a sense of value in exercise and fitness regardless of structured competition.
  • Communicate sincerely and often with your child about his or her desires.
  • Help your child build a strong sense of self-worth and identity that is not dependent on the sport itself or level of achievement.
  • Provide positive momentum by celebrating reality successes as often as possible.

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 be well maintained and checked on a regular basis.

Emergency Plan

Teams should develop and practice an emergency plan so that team members know their roles in emergency situations. The plan would include first aid and emergency contact information. All members of the team should receive a written copy each season. Parents also should be familiar with the plan and review it with their children.

Common Injuries

Wrist Injuries

Because gymnasts walk and jump on their hands, significant force (sometimes 2 to 4 times their body weight) is put on the wrists. As a result, most gymnasts complain of wrist pain at some point. Gymnasts are particularly at risk for injuries to the growth plate of the wrist as well as stress fractures of the forearm, tears in the wrist cartilage, and scaphoid fractures.

Treatment begins with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Athletes should see a doctor if their wrists are swollen or painful the next day. X-rays may be needed.

The risk of these injuries can be reduced by a gradual increase in activity intensity, proper skill progression, proper warm-up and conditioning, and the use of wrist braces.

Elbow Injuries

Elbow sprains, fractures, or dislocations can occur when a gymnast lands on an overextended elbow. Loss of blood supply to an area of bone and cartilage, a condition called osteochondritis dissecans, can cause an inability to straighten the elbow and locking, catching, or swelling of the elbow.

Gymnasts are at risk of these injuries from the repetitive forces placed on the elbow joints.

Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should see a doctor if their wrists are swollen or painful the next day. X-rays may be needed.

Ankle and Foot Injuries

Ankle sprains are common, and a strength training program that includes balance and theraband exercises is recommended for both treatment and prevention. Sever’s disease (heel pain from inflammation of the growth plate of the heel bone) can happen when an athlete’s bare foot impacts the ground. Use of a Cheetah ankle brace (or a Tuli’s heel cup in an ankle brace) cushions the ankle while performing gymnastics events.

Knee Injuries

Both acute and chronic knee injuries are seen in gymnastics. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears commonly occur with dismounts and floor exercises. ACL prevention programs, which teach proper landing and stopping techniques and include hamstring strengthening exercises, should be part of the conditioning of all gymnasts. The athletes’ young ages and hours of practice make pain in the front of the knee common (Osgood-Schlatter disease, patellar tendinosis, and patellofemoral pain syndrome).
Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should see a doctor as soon as possible if they cannot walk on the injured knee. Athletes should also see a doctor if the knee is swollen, a pop is felt at the time of injury, or the knee feels loose or like it will give way.

Athletes who return to play with a torn ACL risk further joint damage. Athletes with an ACL tear are usually unable to return to their sport.

Low Back Pain

Spondylolysis, stress fractures in bones of the lower spine, is a common injury in athletes who do a lot of jumping, tumbling, and back-bending activities. Symptoms include low back pain that feels worse with back extension activities like back walkovers or back handsprings. Gymnasts with low back pain for longer than 2 weeks should see a doctor. X-rays are usually normal so other tests are often needed to diagnose spondylolysis.

Blisters

Training on the bars, horse, or rings often causes calluses or blisters (also called rips by many gymnasts). These can be prevented by using chalk (to decrease friction), leather grips, and regular shaving of calluses that do develop.

Common Medical Issues

Female Athlete Triad

Female athlete triad is a term used to describe the unhealthy combination of eating problems (not getting enough calories), menstrual problems (absent or infrequent periods), and low bone density (weak bones). Many female gymnasts try to stay thin for appearances, or to be a lighter weight for mastery of difficult moves. Parents and trainers should be on the lookout for rapid weight loss or abnormal eating behaviors to prevent an eating disorder.

Burnout

Burnout can occur to gymnasts with long hours of training, year-round participation, and pressures to advance. This is common among athletes who began training at very young ages or those forced to “retire” or miss a season after an injury. Athletes should be watched carefully and counseled if burnout is suspected.

For answers to additional questions about injuries, injury prevention, and safe training practices, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist.

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 immature when it comes to advancing levels of performance.

If the child is subjected to competition and heavy training before psychological development is ready, the results can be disastrous. If parents, coaches, teachers, and instructors understand these principles and how they can connect the dots, we are definitely on our way to a positive sports experience for everyone involved.

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.

Close your eyes and think real hard—where does everything go that a baby touches? In its mouth! So be real. Little baby footballs, baseball gloves, and running shoes may be cute and color coordinated, but their effectiveness as sports equipment is lost when they become just another baby chew toy. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness does not recommend infant exercise programs as beneficial for development or helpful for future performance. Supervised, unstructured, and explorative activities in a safe environment are the way to go.

Once children are a few years old, however, hints of sports skill development start to take shape, and the preparation process for sports readiness begins. To be acquired successfully, sports skills involve a complex interaction between movement, sight, and thought. None of these by themselves are completely helpful without the others.

Motor skills (movement) require the right visual processing to allow the correct movement response. These skills also require appropriate brain processing and thought patterns so the response will be meaningful and effective.

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 6,600 high school football players will ever rise to the professional football ranks.

Nevertheless, there are other, more important reasons for your child to par­ticipate in organized sports. Sports can contribute to physical fitness and de­velop basic motor skills. Also, participation in the sports activity that best suits your child’s capabilities can develop leadership skills, boost self-confi­dence, teach the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, and help him deal with both success and failure.

In addition, by participating in sports, chil­dren often find exercise enjoyable and are more likely to establish lifelong habits of healthful exercise. However, not all sports meet the requirements for promoting overall fitness. Also, there are many ways for children to be fit and become active without participating in a team sport.

Talk with your child about his interest in youth sports, and what his reasons may be for wanting (or in some cases, not wanting) to participate. His goals may be different from yours. Most children—particularly the younger ones—might say that they simply want to have fun.

Others may add that they want to be active and hope to spend time and share experiences with friends. You may have all of these goals, too, along with the desire that your youngster de­velop an appreciation for sports and fitness.

If either you or your child places winning at or near the top of your list of goals—and if you put pressure on your child to win a tournament or kick a goal—your priorities are out of line. Winning certainly adds to the fun and ex­citement of sports, but it should not be a primary goal.

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 High Schools guidelines, which include restrictions on basket tosses, pyramid heights, and twisting/flipping stunts.
  • Spotters. All cheerleaders should be trained to spot properly. Spotters assist or catch the top person in a partner stunt or pyramid. Proper supervision and spotting should be available at all times.
  • Emergency plan. Teams should develop and practice an emergency plan so that team members know their roles in emergency situations. The plan would include first aid and emergency contact instructions. All members of the team should receive a written copy each season. Parents also should be familiar with the plan and review it with their children.

Common injuries

Ankle sprains

Ankle sprains are the most common cheerleading injury and usually happen when the cheerleader lands on the outside of the foot, twisting the ankle inward. Injuries to the bone are more common than injuries to the ligament, especially in younger athletes.

Treatment begins with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Athletes should see a doctor as soon as possible if they cannot walk on the injured ankle or have severe pain, especially in the bony parts of the foot or ankle. X-rays are often needed.

Knee injuries

Knee injuries commonly occur when a cheerleader lands awkwardly from a jump. Ananterior cruciate ligament tear is usually associated with sudden knee pain and giving way from a twisting, knock-kneed, or hyperextension injury.

Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should see a doctor as soon as possible if they cannot walk on the injured knee. Knee fractures may not heal if the knee is not treated properly. Athletes should also see a doctor if the knee is swollen, a pop is felt at the time of injury, or the knee feels loose or like it will give way.

Cheerleaders can also get overuse knee injuries, such as patellar tendonitis orOsgood-Schlatter disease, which are common in sports that require a lot of jumping. They usually cause pain just below the kneecap. These injuries can be treated with rest, ice, taping or bracing, stretching, strengthening, and/or physical therapy.

Wrist injuries

Wrist injuries usually happen when a cheerleader falls onto an outstretched hand. Both bone and ligament injuries in the wrist can occur with a fall.

Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should see a doctor if their wrists are swollen or painful the next day. X-rays are often needed.

Low-back pain

Spondylolysis, a stress fracture in the spine, is a common injury in athletes who do a lot of jumping, tumbling, and back-bending activities. Symptoms include low-back pain that feels worse with back extension activities, like back walkovers or back handsprings. Cheerleaders with low-back pain for longer than 2 weeks should see a doctor. X-rays are usually normal at first so other tests are often needed to diagnose spondylolysis.

Athletes with spondylolysis must rest from back extension activities for several weeks, and usually months. Physical therapy to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles will also help athletes recover.  Back braces are unnecessary in most cases.

Head injuries

Concussions in cheerleading usually occur when a cheerleader’s head hits the ground after a severe fall. A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary or permanent basis.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may take hours to days to show up. Athletes who have had concussions may report feeling normal before their brain has fully recovery. With most concussions, the player is not knocked out or unconscious.

Prematurely returning to play after a concussion can lead to another concussion or even death. An athlete with a history of concussion may be more susceptible to another injury than an athlete with no history of concussion.

Catastrophic injuries

Catastrophic injuries can occur if a cheerleader falls from the top of a pyramid, lift, or basket toss. Head injuries, like concussions or skull fractures, and spine injuries, like fractures or paralysis, may occur after a severe fall. If a severe fall occurs, the athlete should not be moved and the emergency plan should be started right away. No athlete with a concussion or spine injury should return to sports unless it’s cleared in writing by a doctor.

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? This is a terrible situation that is growing out of hand. The news frequently shows prominent sports figures and teams getting in trouble with steroid scandals. Youngsters rarely know the side effects and as usual, even if they do, they think the bad things will never happen to them.

Desiring muscles for more strength and power, athletic superiority, or even a ripped body is not necessarily abnormal. However, if the desired end result is one built from pressure to perform, a distortion of what a healthy body really is, or a disregard for personal safety, that is a problem. Some youth think muscles are the answer to everything, and they will go to dangerous lengths to develop them.

Other youth just see muscles all around them and think they should have them to avoid being different. Muscles are important, but they are not the end all and be all for participating in activities or sports. There is so much more that contributes to the complete package of improving sports skills and expertise. We have been discussing all of the different factors that develop over time to benefit ability. Strength is just one of them.

Let’s put the steroid craze and muscle mania aside and talk about strength training as it applies and contributes to your child’s various sporting endeavors and how development plays a part. So what about lifting weights? It may be easy to think that the sooner your child starts lifting weights, the quicker he will be able to run faster, jump higher, and throw farther.

Well, think again. Maybe that is why none of the infant stores carry any beginner baby weight sets in pink and blue. When considering the question of when Johnny can start lifting weights, there are several issues that must be addressed.

Among the more important issues are

  • Age
  • Level of development
  • Reason for interest
  • Level of sports skill already achieved
  • Risk of injury
  • Availability of equipment and adequate supervision
  • Reality of gaining strength (and size)
  • How strength training works in a young body

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” or “I’m not good at any sports.”

What you can try

  • Consider active hobbies, like gardening. You don’t have to play a sport to be active.
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. Dancing, bicycling, and swimming are fun choices. And walking counts too.
  • Consider volunteer work, like helping at a youth center or serving meals at a shelter.
  • Find a friend, sibling, or other family member to be an “activity buddy” and schedule a fun activity 2 to 3 times a week.

3. “My neighborhood isn’t safe.”

What you can try

  • Use a workout video or DVD in your home.
  • Dance in your home to your favorite music.
  • Find a YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or community recreation center in your neighborhood.
  • Sign up for school activities such as physical education or after-school programs.

4. “I’m overweight or out of shape.”

What you can try

  • Start slow with 10 to 15 minutes of activity; walking is a great start.
  • Build short activity breaks into your day; take the stairs!
  • Count up your daily sit-down activities (computer, video games, TV time) and decrease them by 30 minutes.
  • Join an after-school program or community program that involves activity or learning a new skill—get a friend to go with you.

Physical Activity Plan

Each member can use the following questions to help create a personal physical activity plan. Parents can help their children answer the questions. Parents also should remember that they can be powerful role models and can shape their children’s perception of physical activity and exercise.

  1. What are the main benefits I want from being physically active?
  2. What are the reasons or barriers that keep me from being active?
  3. If necessary, what will be my solutions to these barriers?
  4. What activity or activities am I going to do?
  5. Where am I going to do this activity?
  6. When am I going to be active (include time of day and on which days of the week)?
  7. How long or how many minutes will I be active each day?
  8. Who will be my activity buddy?