Should I sign my kids up to the gym?

Kids at the gym? Diana's Health & Fitness, Wellingborough

As the hot topic of childhood obesity continues to rage on, we ask when is the right time for children to start going to the gym?

Staying fit and healthy is important at any age and starting with a sensible fitness plan from a young age encourages us to stay fit and healthy for life!

We’re not talking about pumping iron from 5 years old but rather creating a sustainable and safe fitness plan that fits in with your child’s growth and development.

It’s all about finding an activity that your child is going to enjoy and is appropriate for their age. For example, choosing a group activity could also benefit your child by enhancing their social and team working skills as well as their fitness.

If they find a sport they really love, they may want to consider competing too, adding another element of excitement and fun.

We’re all familiar with the general benefits of introducing sport and fitness to our lives and these remain true for children too:

  1. Raising self-esteem
  2. Maintaining a healthy weight
  3. Building a healthy body for life
  4. Controlling stress
  5. Improved sleep

Let’s take a look at specific benefits and activities for various ages:

2-3 year olds

At this age the main benefit we’re looking for is improved motor skills. This can be achieved through running and throwing. Fun and creativity should be promoted over structure and strict form. We want to avoid over stretching these young bones as they are still developing. Swimming is also a great activity at this age.

4-5 year olds

Motor skills are maturing and we want to start focusing on balance and coordination at this age so it’s a perfect time to introduce more complex movements such as skipping and gymnastics.

6-12 year olds

Your child will be developing their own interests and style during these years. Activities can now be extended to yoga, advanced gymnastics, climbing, swimming and team sports, such as football and basketball.

13-18 year olds

Your children are now young adults and their exercise habits will begin to look more structured and resemble adult regimes. The teenage years stereotypically lead to an adoption of more sedentary activities; it’s important to ensure other options are presented in order to keep your child fit and healthy and pave the way for adult fitness too. Options for how to get involved at this stage are endless.

Let’s help our children get fit for life!

Offering your child access to a mixture of activities from working out in the gym and swimming to taking part in team sports and group exercises, allows them to form a healthy relationship with fitness from an early age.

If you do encourage your child to take part in these activities, you need to monitor them carefully. Children can easily overdo it when they become enthusiastic. So ensure you choose the right activity and support your child to work at the right level for them.

It’s also important to share positive body messages with your children. Going to the gym isn’t about achieving the perfect body as defined by society, it is about making the right choices that promote a healthy lifestyle.

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