Is training safe for America’s youth? Jason Harley, certified Youth Fitness Specialist, explains the 5 most important things that are crucial for youth’s health.
The lifestyle of today’s youth has become more sedentary as compared to when we were kids and would play outside from dawn til’ dusk. Technology now consumes the free time of our children and they are spending less time being active and more time sitting on the couch. This lack of physical activity has caused the obesity levels as well as Type II diabetes in our nation to rise to epidemic proportions. There has been debate on whether or not training is beneficial and safe for adolescents, but there have been numerous studies conducted that have shown it can have positive results if implemented in a safe and carefully monitored program.
There are many components that should be included in a quality youth fitness training program besides the physical components. One component that must be considered is the need for qualified instructors and trainers who know how to work with youth and understand the fundamental principles of normal growth and development. Children are not miniature adults and should not train like adults. Instructors need to make sure that if the children are using weight machines, that they fit the child’s body because if they don’t the child could develop an injury. The trainer/instructor should make sure that all equipment is safe and that well-planned recovery strategies are put into place. Children need more recovery time than adults and if not properly taken, could result in overtraining or decreases in performance. Before starting a training program, a child should first be evaluated by a doctor to make sure he/she is ready physically as well as mentally.
The most important aspects of a youth fitness program are:
1. Stretching and flexibility: Building and maintaining one’s flexibility is a key component in any fitness program. It keeps the muscles loose after they have tightened from a weight training workout. It will also prevent the risk of injury, especially in younger trainees.
2. Resistance training: A common myth is that young people should not take part in any form of weight lifting exercise, but this is not the case. Using light resistance with focus on proper technique has been shown to have positive physical and psychological benefits.
3. Motor Skill Development: In this stage of one’s life, motor skills are still being developed and refined which makes it very important that these skills are being taught correctly. Adequate practice time needs to be given. Running, throwing, jumping, and catching are a few of the skills to be developed.
4. Cardiovascular Training: The recommended amount of cardiovascular activity is three to four times a week for at least thirty minutes. Increasing their cardiovascular health can improve skills and sport performance, increase bone density, and decrease the risk of osteoporosis in girls.
5. Nutrition: The fitness program is just half the battle. Cutting out drinks with sugar and replacing them with water and milk is the key. Cooking at home is not only healthier for you, but also more cost effective.
Another component that should always be built in is FUN. Studies have shown that children decide whether or not they like physical activity by 3rd grade. Doing activities that are fun for kids like swimming, biking, playing Frisbee, jumping rope and playing catch with their friends will teach children that doing exercise does not mean just running on a treadmill. These activities they can enjoy with their family as well which will lead to even more quality family time.
If all of these components are considered and included in a youth training program, the child is going to benefit in numerous ways. They will have more confidence when it comes to their motor abilities, which will in turn impact their view on living a healthy, active lifestyle and why it is important. Fun should be a main focus, and if a child is not enjoying it, another avenue should be looked into.