At your gymnastics center, you want to do more than provide one more “extracurricular activity” for the kids you serve: you want to help them establish healthy habits that will lead to lifelong physical fitness. In that endeavor, it’s important to not only understand what “physical fitness” entails but also the most significant areas of fitness — along with typical deficiencies among the children you serve. We started off doing just that in Part 1. Now that we understand those things, it’s time to consider the unique needs of children and how they can be accommodated while taking strides to guide them and their parents in improving their overall fitness levels — starting with the most significant aspects of fitness.
Understanding the Unique Aspects of Children’s Fitness
As alarming as the statistics are when it comes to the cardio endurance of today’s children, the good news is that as their cardiovascular habits are improved, so can their endurance and — as a result — their overall physical fitness. But before we start making suggestions about suitable habits and how you can help instill them in your gymnastics students, we need to consider the unique aspects of children’s bodies, which are different from those of adults in many ways. Of course, keep in mind that every child is a unique individual as well.
Because children’s bodies are still growing, they have some unique challenges. First, frequent growth spurts come with the need for acclimation and associated lack of coordination. With that comes increased risk of injury. Because their core muscles as well as other muscles are not yet fully developed, they’ll typically be weaker than those of adults. The resulting lack of core strength can also increase their vulnerability to injury. One aspect of physical fitness that helps prevent injury is flexibility — something many children lack. While your gymnastics center can’t do anything to change a child’s growth patterns or general muscular development, you can obviously help each child develop greater flexibility.
Recommendations to Help Encourage Endurance
When a child has a diet filled with nutritious foods, that child will be more likely to be able to improve, when it comes to cardio endurance. While a generally colorful balance of mostly plant-based whole foods is certainly helpful, healthy choices of snacks during and after school will especially improve a child’s energy levels. Stamina-inducing healthy snacks include iron-rich foods and complex carbohydrates as well as fruits like bananas and red grapes.
In addition to promoting healthy food choices, encouraging daily physical activity will go a long way toward helping children develop greater endurance. (This includes days on which you don’t have gymnastics class.) Whether a child walks, jogs, rides a bike, dances or swims, the key is to include some form of aerobic exercise that generates energy. Competition helps motivate some kids to remain active, but organized sports are not necessary in order to achieve greater endurance.
How can you promote these kinds of healthy habits? Stay tuned for future posts.