The problem was clear. The challenge set forth was daunting but vital.
How can fitness be introduced to children at an early enough age to change the course of the childhood obesity epidemic?
The answer seems simple enough: more access to fitness opportunities and healthier eating alternatives in order to instill healthy habits at a young age. But the obstacles kept coming. Budget cuts at schools limited physical education classes and access to sports. Poor nutrition choices were cheaper and more accessible than fresh fruits and vegetables. And it became easier to offer a child a screen to sit in front of than to encourage them to get out and play.
The fitness industry responded with solutions and the results are undeniable. The tide is changing.
What is going right?
Functional training has been a hot topic in fitness since it began cracking the ACSM “Top Fitness Trends” list in 2010. And what’s hot for adults is also great for kids! Manufacturers developed cable-based strength training options, as well as fitness accessories that allow people to train the way their body moves, regardless of size or ability, making it ideal for people of any age. The benefits of the resulting transferrable strength are impressive, making functional training-focused classes, programs and equipment a fun, inclusive way to begin to get fit and stay challenged.
Programming continues to be adapted for the youth audience. Popular classes like Zumba, Les Mills, CrossFit, yoga and sport-specific training are now available for the younger generation, as well as their parents. It’s something that families can participate in and benefit from together.
Leading by example is a major component to getting children started on healthier paths. When families can participate in activities together, it becomes easier to do and, more importantly, it becomes habit. There are plenty of options like “family fun” runs, classes at a local gym or community based facility, or family sports leagues. But it can also be as simple as going for a bike ride, playing tag and breaking out the old hula-hoop for good, old-fashioned fun. That’s the key — being active needs to be fun and something that everyone can do together, so that it is a habit rather than a chore.
Keeping the Momentum Going
The solutions have started to produce results, but the industry needs to keep the momentum going strong.
Continue to be inclusive! There are a variety of avenues to becoming fit. Some people respond to competitions and sports-specific specialized training. But that’s not for everyone. Just like adults, kids can be intimidated by too much competition or turned off if they are not inherently athletic. Get the heart pumping in a fun way so everyone wants to participate: go for a walk, ride a bike, play soccer, or jump rope. There are so many options that there is bound to be something that appeals to just about everyone. As long as someone gets moving and is encouraged to keep moving, they are taking the right first steps.
Start looking at wellness from a holistic approach. Total body wellness includes physical fitness, a sound mind and good nutrition. That starts at home by making small changes like water instead of soda at mealtime or a mid-day snack of fruit instead of cookies. If kids embrace these small changes in diet at home with the example and encouragement of their parents, they will be more apt to make better choices on their own at school, a friend’s house, or at a restaurant.
Education is vital to a sound mind. Teach children about the benefits of their activity or how to properly participate in it and they will be empowered to keep perfecting their activity. Then, fitness becomes a welcomed part of their life.
Remember, 60 minutes a day is all it takes to begin changing those sedentary, obesity-inviting inclinations to healthier habits that will benefit children for a lifetime!
Sonja Friend-Uhl is the Lead Master Fitness Trainer of Star Trac. She can be contacted at 714.508.3384, or by e-mail at email@example.com.