It seems like kids always have an endless amount of energy, so it begs the question: when is it okay for kids to begin exercising? Aside from playing sports, swimming, and running around, it’s a good idea to introduce more physical activity with kids, according to their age, of course. Exercising will help them in the long run by developing motor skills and muscles while also reducing the risk of developing overuse injuries. Not to mention, exercising at an earlier age could encourage a love of physical activity in kids. However, kids of different ages have different needs. Let’s discuss what’s safe for each age group.
Children ages 3-5 should be physically active throughout the day. Being active regularly will improve bone health as well as start patterns to keep them at a healthy weight as they grow. Kids this age can play team sports like soccer or basketball. Just keep your expectations realistic. Any sport at this age needs to be about play and not competition. Most 5-year-olds aren’t coordinated enough to hit a ball, which is to be expected. Another healthy option for this age group is swimming.
By age 6, kids have developed enough to be able to hit a pitched baseball or pass a soccer ball. Additionally, they can also do sports like gymnastics or bike riding. These ages are the prime time to introduce them to all kinds of athletic activities. Just keep in mind that different sports stress growth in different ways, so a variety helps overall healthy development. Overuse injuries tend to be common when kids play the same sport season after season, so variety is key.
At this point in time, hand-eye coordination truly kicks in. Kids will be able to hit and throw a baseball accurately. It’s okay to encourage competition as long as winning isn’t the only focus. If kids are interested in taking part in events like short triathlons or distance running races, it’s safe so long as they’ve trained for the event and stay hydrated.
When kids reach adolescence, they might begin to lose interest in organized sports. They might prefer focusing on strength or muscle-building exercises. However, unless your child has already hit puberty, it’s not encouraged to lift heavy weights. Healthier options are stretchy tubes, bands, and body-weight exercises like push-ups and squats. These will develop their strength without endangering the bones and joints as they’re still growing. In fact, kids are at the biggest risk of injury when they’re having growth spurts in their early teenage years. If they lift too much weight or use improper form while throwing a ball or running, it can cause serious injuries.
Once your teen has been through puberty and is ready to lift weights, it’s good to urge them to take a class or a few sessions with an expert to build proper form and prevent any future injuries. If your high-schooler wants to participate in endurance events like triathlons, there’s no reason to say no. The biggest thing to remember is that proper training is just as important for teens as it is for their parents. Keep an eye on their nutrition and hydration as well.