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Steve Theunissen is a freelance writer living in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer and is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness and fat loss. Steve also writes history books with a focus on the history of warfare. He is married and has two daughters.

Give Your Kids the Gift of Fitness

Of all the gifts you could shower on your children, few can hold a candle to that of a healthy lifestyle. If you, as a parent, can help your child to build into their routine regular exercise, a healthy respect for food, and regular periods of downtime and meditation, you will be setting them up for a successful future. Here are a half dozen ways to get your kids into fitness without acting like a drill sergeant.

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Get Them in a Sports Team

Getting your child into a sports team early on can have a whole laundry list of benefits. They’ll develop the ability to share and interact with others. The habit of practicing to improve will be ingrained in them and they will be getting fitter by the day as they develop sports-specific skills that improve their balance and coordination.

Hike the Trail on a Mountain Bike

Cycling is a fantastic low-impact form of cardio for kids. Combining it with the intrigue and excitement of taking to the forest will have your kids engrossed for hours without even realizing that they’re getting fit. Cycling is also a great bonding experience for the whole family.

Kids Boot Camp

Kids love to do ‘grown up’ workouts. You can devise a simple boot camp-style circuit that can be done around the home with hardly any equipment. Include old stand-bys such as push-ups, the wall sit, plank, squats, and lunges. Intersperse these anaerobic moves with cardio exercises like burpees, skipping, and jumping jacks. Do it along with the kids so they can be motivated to beat you!

Get Gamified

Gamification is the new buzzword in home exercise. What started with the Wii has grown into a huge range of fun interactive ways to get your sweat on while plugged into your technology. Not surprisingly, the kids love it. One of the coolest out there is the Gymaholic app– check it out with your kids today!

What about Weights?

There’s a raging debate about at what age kids should be introduced to weights, ranging from 6-7 right through to the end of puberty. As with most things, the sensible approach is somewhere in the middle.

You should start your child with bodyweight resistance exercises such as push-ups and the wall sit from about the age of 10. Most kids should be ready for more challenging resistance after two years, at which time you can switch to resistance bands. At around age 13, you can start with light weight training, with a focus on perfecting form with high reps.

Getting your child into a regular resistance training lifestyle is one of the best things you will ever do. While they develop their body, they’ll be building such qualities as self-esteem, self-confidence, discipline, and goal setting. These skills will benefit them in every area of their life.

Here’s a workout you should try with your kids:

Kids and Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are an ideal progression from bodyweight exercises to weight resistance training. They provide the child with a completely safe, non-threatening, and accessible way to work out. They are also low-cost and completely portable. When they exercise with resistance bands, children don’t have to worry about dropping heavy weights, failing under a heavy load, or having the weights drop off the bar.

Here is an introductory resistance band workout that you use with your kids from the age of about 11 or 12 years of age. Prior to that, they should have been engaged in a bodyweight workout program as follows for at least three months:

  • Push-Ups 3 sets of 10 -15 reps
  • Bodyweight Squats 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Burpees 3 x 10
  • Reverse Dips 3 x 10

Band Squats

How to do it

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and a resistance band under your feet. Hold the handles at shoulder level with a palms forward grip. Maintain a neutral spine position and look directly ahead.
  2. Hinge bat the hips as you descend to a parallel squat position.
  3. Push through the heels to return to the start position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Chest Press

How to do it

  1. Loop a resistance band around a secure upright at shoulder level. Stand 18 inches in front of the upright, facing away from it. Hold the handles of the band at shoulder level with a palms forward grip. Keep your elbows level with your shoulders.
  2. Press forward to bring your arms together at chest level.
  3. Lower under control and repeat.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Lat Pulldowns

How to do it

  1. Secure a loop band door anchor to the top of an internal door. Close and, if possible, lock the door. Stand two feet away from the doorway, facing it, and grab the handles with a palms-down grip.
  2. Row the resistance band down and in toward your ribs. Feel the upper back muscles stretching and contracting as you do so.
  3. Return to the start position under control and repeat.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Overhead Press

How to do it

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a resistance band under your feet. Hold the handles at shoulder level with a palms forward grip. Maintain a neutral spine position and look directly ahead.
  2. Press your arms directly overhead to full arm extension.
  3. Lower under control and repeat.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Summary

Getting your child into a healthy fitness lifestyle will make it easier for him or her to negotiate the challenges of being a teenager. Studies have shown that kids who are regular exercisers are more likely to resist negative peer pressure, whether it's to take drugs or to join a gang. They are also better prepared to enter the workforce having developed the life skills that employers are looking for.

You have the power to make a powerful difference in your child’s future – are you going to use it?

How do you share the gift of fitness with your family? Share your ideas with the community in the comments section.

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