It’s a sad fact that kids aren’t as active as they used to be. Between safety issues (such as not being able to just go play all over the neighborhood outside for hours on end) and indoor activities like video games, our kids are more sedentary than ever. Even the weather can be blamed; after all, who wants to play outside with a 110 degree heat index?
Here in North Carolina, we had a few days this summer where it was just too hot and humid to play outside for any length of time. As a result, my son was a little bundle of energy that needed some sort of outlet to make up for our loss of “outside time.” Then, while doing a workout one day, inspiration struck. Sometimes I do my workouts while my son is doing his own thing, and more often than not he will follow along for a while. That was when I decided to design a workout just for him, making it fun by turning it into a bit of a game. In doing this, there are three major benefits: 1. Physical fitness- that’s a no-brainer; 2. Burning off excess energy when we can’t go outside; 3. Instilling good habits early on. Fitness is part of my family’s lifestyle; we exercise, and we like it. He has been observing that for the past four years, and now that he is taking an active part too it will hopefully form a lifelong love for physical activity.
So here is what I did; I grabbed some blank index cards, and made up Fitness Flashcards. I wanted to include a good mix of strength and “cardio” type moves, working the entire body, and using real exercises that he has seen me do. He truly enjoys doing the same moves that he has seen others do, with real weights. I let him use two soft one-pound ankle weights; the weight enough to provide resistance without being too heavy, plus if they are dropped he won’t get hurt. When do weight exercises, I “spot” him, making sure he has perfect form to avoid any straining on joints and possible injury. Better safe than sorry, plus proper form means muscles are worked properly and the whole thing isn’t just for fun. Anyway, on to the cards.
On each card, I wrote the name of the exercise and drew a stick figure illustration of the move. I’m no artist, but I wanted a visual reference for my son’s benefit, and stick men are good enough for him! Then we shuffle the deck, and he draws one card. He has to complete the move, even if it’s not one that he particularly likes, before going onto the next. When we are all done, we finish with a stretch, and he has his choice of a standing stretch or one sitting/laying down. Our exercises are: 30 runs (run around like mad while counting to 30), 30 bounces (bounce in place 30 times), 20 jumping jacks, 10 front kicks (on each leg), 10 squats, 10 pushups, 10 crunches, 10 overhead presses (shoulders), 10 bench presses (chest), 10 bicep curls. We do these every weekday, as part of our daily routine, upon his request. Some days he asks to go through them twice. The whole bit takes about 10 minutes.
If you decide to do these, my words of advice are to keep safety in mind. Don’t let your child use a weight that he has trouble lifting; make sure he can easily do all the reps without losing form, otherwise he may hurt himself. Make the experience fun, but be firm; one thing we are working on now is the importance of following through and not quitting. These have helped with that lesson, because once we start our exercises, we finish them all and don’t quit. If I have to be stern about it, I will; we established the “finishing” rule early on though and it has stuck. Most of all, tailor the ideas to suit your child. We have kicks because that’s what he likes to do, not for some other grand reason. The more fun it is for your child, the more likely he will be to enjoy it. And that is the purpose- to make exercise an enjoyable experience early on so your child incorporates it into his life permanently.