With the rising rates of childhood obesity, youth fitness instructors are becoming more necessary. Unlike adult trainers and instructors, youth instructors need to address children in a way that will meet their specific needs--considering their growing bodies and shorter attention spans. When looking for a trainer for your child, choose an individual with the correct certifications and experience working closely with children.
Historically, kids walked to school and participated in physical education classes. The activity they participated in during the day was sufficient to keep them healthy, and trainers came in the form of PE teachers and coaches. In the last 40 years, things have changed substantially. Technology has boomed, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, kids spend three hours a day in front of the TV or on the Internet, while many schools have cut their physical education classes. These factors have affected the activity level of children and, according to the CDC, rates of obesity in children have increased substantially. Because of this, sports and fitness organizations have begun developing child-centric certifications designed to teach instructors how to approach fitness with kids in mind.
Youth fitness trainers can help provide kids with a fun way to learn about their bodies and how activity affects their physical health. Trainers have knowledge about body mechanics and can teach children how to perform exercises safely. Proper youth training certifications verify that the instructor has undergone training on the specific needs of children, particularly how puberty and hormones affect a child's development, and the importance of strength training for bone health. This type of knowledge is especially important when a trainer wants to incorporate weight and strength training into a fitness plan for children.
General certifications in personal training or group exercise can be applied to fitness experiences in a wide variety of settings. These certifications provide in-depth education in kinesiology, exercise physiology and exercise training concepts. After receiving the general certification, a trainer or instructor can pursue additional continuing education in courses like Youth Fitness or Youth Strength Training through the American Council on Exercise. With the combination of a general certification and additional continuing education, you can feel confident that your instructor has the knowledge needed to guide your child through almost any type of exercise program.
Instructors can choose to pursue certifications geared to a specific type of exercise or activity for kids. Examples of specific certifications for youth fitness are Zumbatomic and YogaFit Kids. These certifications focus on a particular type of class, and limit the types of fitness the instructor can teach. For instance, Zumbatomic instructors know how to teach a Latin-dance inspired workout routine for children, but they may not have received training in weights or other fitness programs. If you sign your child up for a specific type of class, make sure the instructor has that specific class's certification. Instructors with specific certifications aren't necessarily required to have general fitness certification.
When hiring a trainer, it’s important to find out whether his certification comes from an organization accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, or NCCA. These certifications have gone through a third-party credentializing process that verifies their worth. Some of the most well-known organizations that have received this accreditation include the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the Cooper Institute. Make sure that any additional child-specific training received by your trainer qualifies as a continuing education, or CE, credit by the trainer's certifying agency.
Always ask your trainer if she has an education within the field. Many universities offer degree plans in exercise science, kinesiology, physical education or exercise physiology. If you find a trainer with a degree in one of these areas, you know she’s undergone four years of intense education specific to the body's movement and function. However, not every certification requires a college degree, and many trainers without degrees, but with the proper certification, can provide excellent fitness training.