How Would You Design an Exercise Plan for Children?

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Special Populations Blog

Child exercise practitioners are people who take it upon themselves to promote physical activity among children. Designing an exercise plan for children is a serious matter, taking into your hands the well-being and fitness of people’s little sons and daughters.

The goal of a children’s fitness and exercise programme is to promote the idea that exercise and physical fitness is not only fun but important to their health and well-being as well as to instill a lifelong love of physical activity.

Research has shown that children and the youth who incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle are more inclined to adopt other behaviours to complement their healthy lifestyle. Fitness professional and personal trainers working with children should know the differences in their cardiovascular, respiratory as well as musculoskeletal systems in order to develop safe and effective programmes.

Being physically active plays a huge role in benefiting many parts of the body:

  • The heart
  • Skeletal muscles
  • Bones
  • Blood, for example cholesterol levels
  • The immune system
  • The nervous system

Exercise can also reduce the following risk factors:

  • High blood pressure
  • Improving blood cholesterol levels
  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

‘Getting fit’ does not mean – or have to involve – rigorous activity. It doesn’t mean that hours have to be spent in a gym to be physically active. Performing everyday activities in the home  can assist you with becoming active. When a child is physically fit they feel and look better. More importantly, they stay healthy. The earlier a child start getting in shape the more they’ll reduce their risk of numerous illnesses.

Planning a children exercise program

Here’s how to plan a successful – and safe – exercise program for children:

Set clear objectives

Before establishing the exercise plan for children, you need to assess their capabilities. Once you know their activity thresholds, you’ll have a clear idea of how hard you can push them. Then, develop an exercise timeline and share this with the parents or guardians.

Many parents panic about the possibility of exercise-related injuries. What they are inclined to forget is that exercise is an important health maintenance strategy for children and adolescents I the risk of injury is kept at a minimum with proper prevention measures. In most cases,  an active childhood lays the groundwork for a lifetime of fitness.

Use concise instruction

It is fine that you’ve written down the exercises you’ll be using, and the sets/reps necessary, but they won’t know what to do unless you show them. When demonstrating, focus on the correct form and make them understand its importance.

Understanding the child’s mindset is imperative to helping them believe in themselves and to provide the discipline and comforts them into knowing that they are cared for and understood. Here are three steps to understanding the mindset of the youth:

  • Try to understand and remember how you felt at that age and act age appropriately towards the child in question.
  • Understanding the motivation and skill level of the child will help a fitness professional to learn if they need to delegate, inspire, guide, or direct the child to become better mentally or physically.
  • Be strong with actions and words so that the child will look up to you as a role model.

One task at a time

When performing the exercises, be sure to focus on a single objective at a time. Older children can be separated, like rugby coaches separating backline and forward players. Young kids are easily distracted and might start copying their friends instead.

Supervise closely

Adults and older children know how to perform sit-ups, push-ups, and a few other staple exercises without needing assistance – but not young kids. You’ll need to watch their body positioning, and assist with correct posture and form.

Be ready to step in

Like the coach you always dreamed you would have, be ready to support your young athletes – both emotionally and physically. If working with strength training, stay available to spot struggling young athletes.

Progress gradually

As a child exercise practitioner, the athletes’ well-being should be put first before anything else. For this reason, allow children enough time to master an exercise before moving onto the next one – even if it takes longer than it should.

Use positive reinforcement

Finally, always remember to keep a healthy dose of positive motivation and reinforcement handy alongside your exercise plan. Children need to be told that they’re doing well, even if it’s just to motivate them to actually do well.

Children’s cardiovascular system

Children have a lower and submaximal cardiac output, stroke volume, blood pressure, blood volume and haemoglobin owing to their smaller body size and heart volume.

A child’s heart is only about 30% of the size of an adult heart. Thus in order to compensate children have increased average heart rates. The average resting heart rates in beats per minute are as follows:

  • 6 – 10 years: 96 BPM
  • 10 – 14 years: 85 BPM
  • 14 – 18 years: 82 BPM

A child’s phosphagen energy system is similar to that of an adult and they are well suited to intermittent activity with sort rest periods. Activities which necessitate short, intense bursts of energy (and are followed by a brief rest, for example, games and relay races) are well suited to children. A child’s ability to work in the glycogen system is somewhat compromised due to a lower contraction and utilisation of glucose and glycogen.

The respiratory system of a child

Children have smaller, immature lungs. In children aged between five and eight, the lungs are just 20% developed. This results in an enhanced ventilation oxygen cost owing to the increased rate of breathing.

Children have a decreased absolute VO2 Max as opposed to adults. They also have an elevated submaximal oxygen demand in activities such as walking and running due to the increased oxygen cost of breathing. Owing to their immature lungs,  improvements to the aerobic system are somewhat limited because of their immature cardiovascular system. Prior to puberty, boys and girls are both capable of performing and often girls outperform boys. This changes after puberty, however.

Musculoskeletal system

The bones of children are smaller in addition to more fragile Epipheses or growth plates are active as well as susceptible to injury. The growth plates which are located at the distal radius and ulna – as well as at the femur, tibia and fibula – do not close for males until they are between 18 and 20. For females, this age is between 17 and 19. Fains in muscle strength are possible in children however strength training is ineffective at producing hypertrophy as until adolescence there is not enough muscle.

For more children, physical activity provides an opportunity to have fun and promote the basis for good health as well as an enhanced quality of life for the future. However, there are a small number of children or youth who may be at risk when participating in any exercise or physical activity programme. It is therefore important for the personal trainer to do fitness tests and get the young person, guardian or parent to complete a screening form.

Get Qualified with an Exercise and Children Course

If it’s been your dream to work in the child fitness industry, Trifocus Fitness Academy’s exercise for children course is the ideal first step towards becoming a children’s exercise practitioner. Get a sound, holistic understanding of child exercise management in a distance-learning format. If you’d like to find out more, connect with us today!

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