Having worked for a few years as a fitness and martial arts instructor, I’ve been asked several times about what is best for young children to do to increase their physical ability. While I appreciate the parent(s) seeing me a source of knowledge and their concerns over their child’s activity level, I have to be honest in saying that a great deal of children are naturally active and really at their age (prepubescent) any sort of physical activity will eventually improve their overall fitness. With that being said, however, there are some very solid programs and styles of training that I always recommend.
No matter the age of the individual, there are two physical aspects that must always be trained, your grip and your core. While weight training as a whole isn’t necessarily bad for children, it can sometimes take a toll on proper growth of certain children. But training grip strength and core stability require almost no equipment and limits any sort of extra weight placed on the body. Though these two are commonly ignored or under-trained, it is stupidly easy to work them. Something as simple as hanging off of a bar or performing a plank pose can work grip and core respectively. While some kids may want to train hard, others need more variety to stay focused, which can cause an issue when following a training regime. But taking your kid to a park and incorporating various climbing, balancing, or stabilizing activities would easily work your child while also allowing them to have some fun. But for those that just don’t really have the means to take their child to a park, here’s one program that places grip and core at its very foundation…
Gymnastics is the number one sport that I always recommend to parents wanting to get their kids active. Not only would they be able to release some of their energy but they would undoubtedly acquire some excellent physical capabilities. It is often stated that gymnasts have the easiest transition from sport to sport because of their incredible foundation in grip strength, core stability, balance and overall physical fitness. Though there are some downfalls to signing your child up for gymnastics. The most obvious is both the time and monetary commitment, requiring generally a large sum of month per month as well as constant driving back and forth nearly every other day. But another more subtle negative is the fact that as a gymnast progresses through their training, it can lead to very debilitating injuries later on in life especially when said training is very difficult or taxing. But a simple fix is to not push your child to pursue that path unless they want to (and obviously support them without fail when they do).
Now while I consider gymnastics as a fantastic first sport and place grip strength and core strength as tied for first form of training, I do not shy away from recommending other activities as well. Joining a team sport creates a sense of unity, leadership, and camaraderie while practicing a practical martial art influences self-esteem, discipline, and humility. But here is the most important part of all of this; the sport or activity is not nearly as important as the enthusiasm of the child. If the child doesn’t want to play baseball or wrestle or do gymnastics, forcing them will only make it worse. The best possible way to bring your child to do any sort of physical activity is to let them have fun with it. It also doesn’t hurt to try to teach your child about the benefits of physical activity as well. But at the end of the day, it really is up the child if they want to do it or not. Remember, while you may want to help them be better, they are a living person, not a dress-up doll for you to live vicariously.