Brianne Feinour, the youth and camp director at Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), shares how recovery and fitness are benefitting youth mental health.
“Wherever you go, there you are,” said Jon Kabat-Zinn. Such a simple statement to emphasize the importance of taking care of ourselves every day, even at a young age.
Just like physical activity strengthens a child’s muscles and improves mood and behavior, research shows mindfulness practices can help decrease levels of stress, depression, anxiety and disruptive behavior in children. Introducing both ideas to childhood and adolescence developmental stages will create positive habits for fitness and mental health that will carry into their adult life.
In a 2020 IHRSA article, there was story on “Why Health Clubs Need a Fitness Recovery Strategy.” In the article, it elaborated on how the wellness trend continues to make an impact on traditional health clubs because many consumers are finding the terms “mindfulness” and “self-care” in their everyday vocabulary. It’s in this category the concept of recovery has begun to trend in mainstream health and fitness topics.
At NAC in Newtown, Pennsylvania, we are forward thinking in terms of fitness recovery. We incorporate a wide range of programming for our youth demographic, for ages between one and 14. Some of our kids fitness activities include HIIT classes, sports, recreational gymnastics and tumbling, yoga, zumba, dance and more.
We are also developing a program geared towards getting kids ready on the fitness floor. This is for our teen demographic to bridge the gap between adolescence and adulthood. This new development will include fitness sessions and hands-on training through our Parisi Speed Training coaches. Our goal is to teach them basic aerobic and resistance training principles, exercise etiquette, safety, proper equipment use and many other topics. Upon completing proper training, participants will be certified to use all the equipment in the club and can work out without a parent present.
Throughout our fitness program, we have developed an initiative of mindfulness through our mind and bodies. Specifically, each of our kids fitness classes is designed to end class with five minutes of mindfulness moments. Just like our members, these practices will be based on age and awareness. Our daily curriculum focuses on stretching, breath work, grounding, calming practices, body scans and encourages children to end their workout by slowing down as a form of recovery.
Mindfulness, at its simplest, is paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. It may be what you’re feeling, hearing or anything else you notice. There’s no special place of calm you have to reach and it’s not about clearing your mind. It’s just an honest and uninterrupted look at what you’re experiencing in that particular moment.
When incorporating both fitness and mindfulness for children into your programming, it is important to remember self-care looks different to everyone. Offering a wide variety of classes, mindfulness and other forms of recovery are essential for children to explore new tools and choose which work best for them. This will also allow children to gain confidence, improve physical, mental and emotional health, and have fun all at once, at their own pace.
At NAC, our kids fitness programming centers around the concept of a healthy body and a healthy mind. When you mix fitness, mindfulness and recovery together, that’s a recipe for a beneficial lifestyle for years to come.