Cardiovascular and strength training exercises provide various benefits for children, including increased endurance, stronger muscles and bones, and improved self-confidence. Introduce your child to gym equipment before starting an exercise program to ensure proper safety and technique are used. Many health clubs offer a gym orientation for young athletes, or have specific guidelines for children under a certain age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends age-appropriate exercises that your child enjoys, including cardiovascular, strength training and bone strengthening activities. Always supervise your child when using weights or other equipment.
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Upper Body Exercises
Start with body weight exercises such as planks, pushups or pullups. As your child's strength improves, add pieces of equipment, such as a resistance band, light hand weights or a medicine ball. Perform bicep curls and lateral raises with a resistance band or light hand weights. Shoulder presses and tricep exercises can be performed using light hand weights or a medicine ball. Throw a 2-lb. medicine ball back and forth with your child for a total arm workout. If your health club allows, teach your child proper form and technique on exercise machines. Many machines are not made for children and may not be safe to use. Kids Health recommends that a child's workout consist of a high number of repetitions paired with light weight or resistance.
Lower Body Exercises
Squats and lunges are simple exercises that offer a total leg workout for your child. Proper form when squatting and lunging is essential to avoid injuring the knees or back. Once your child's leg strength improves, add light hand weights or a medicine ball to squats and lunges. Have your child hold a medicine ball with both hands and perform a wall sit. Challenge your child to sit for a longer period of time during each wall sit. Begin with 10 seconds, working toward holding the sit for one minute. Simple exercises such as calf raises and leg lifts work leg muscles such as the front and back of the calf, and the inner and outer thigh.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your child should engage in cardiovascular activity for at least 60 minutes a day. Ask your health club about age requirements for certain cardiovascular equipment before putting your child on a treadmill, elliptical machine or stationary bicycle. If your gym has an indoor basketball court, play relay or sprinting games on the court. Bring or borrow a jump rope to use on the basketball court or in an area specific to jumping rope. Start by jumping rope for 10 seconds and work up to one minute, do several sets of jumping rope intervals. Jumping rope offers both cardiovascular and bone strengthening benefits. Your child may rest as needed between each set. Jumping jacks and jumping squats are also beneficial cardiovascular exercises. Many health clubs allow children to participate in group fitness classes with their parents or an adult. If so, bring your child along to a class for a cardiovascular and strength training workout.
Teach your child proper technique when performing an abdominal exercise. Use a gym mat and have him lie on his back with knees bent, feet resting on the floor. Using his abdominal muscles and not his neck or arms, encourage him to lift his shoulders off the ground and tighten his upper and lower abdominal muscles. Tell him to imagine an orange between his chin and his chest, or find a point on the ceiling to focus on when lifting his shoulders and engaging his abdominal muscles. As your child's abdominal strength improves, add a medicine ball to basic crunches or oblique exercises. Light hand weights or a medicine ball may be used when performing standing oblique exercises, such as side bends.