I am often asked, “Should preteens exercise? And if so, how much should they do?” I strongly believe in introducing movement and exercise to children at a young age. I have seen great results and benefits not only with the children I teach exercise to, but also with my own four kids. If exercise and movement is taught at a young age, it then becomes a way of life rather than having to learn and incorporate it into our lives as adults — we all know how challenging that can be.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that as early as age eight a child can begin to exercise as long as they can follow directions and are taught to perform the exercises safely and with proper form and technique. My experience in teaching children has confirmed this as well. Once I teach them the proper methods for breathing and moving, they can begin to engage in age appropriate exercise. And it is not necessary to have different exercises for boys and girls as both genders can benefit from age-appropriate exercise.
There are many exercise options for preteens to engage in, but the exercise should involve both cardiovascular and strength training and can be engaged in for up to one hour (per regulations laid out by The Center for Disease Control). In order to carve this time into our busy family schedules, I suggest to the families I train to consider creating family exercising time together. Here’s how a typical exercise program for a pre-teen could be laid out:
A 5-minute warm up prior to exercising is a MUST. Walking briskly, jogging in place, or even jumping up and down as if you had a jump rope in your hand. It is also important to cool down for 5 minutes after exercising (this can include walking slowly, stepping in place, etc.)
Cardiovascular (30 minutes, 3-4 days per week):
- Bike riding
- Fast walking
- Jumping rope (If it is too difficult to actually use a jump rope at first, you can pretend there is a rope in your hands)
Strength Training (This is about toning and strengthening not building large muscles. 30 minutes, 3-4 days per week) Consult with a certified fitness trainer if you need guidance and education.
- Lunges or squats
- Sit-ups or planks
- Resistance bands or light dumbbells to perform isolated exercises for each body part.
In addition to helping create a healthy lifestyle habit, preteen exercising may also help reduce the occurrences of childhood obesity and diabetes, increase strength and endurance, reduce body fat, improve mood, behavior, and reduce stress, develop confidence/ self-esteem, build body awareness, and stronger bones that help protect the body from injury.
Give your preteen the gift of long-term health, both physically and mentally, by introducing them to the importance of exercise.
Please consult with your doctor before starting any new activity.