The Children's Fitness Manifesto

The Children's Fitness Manifesto

We have a fight on our hands...

A fight to reclaim a physical culture, that I fear has become lost on this current generation. A task of this magnitude requires a basic understanding of the needs of children from an inspirational, developmental and physical perspective.

The following is a bullet-point primer on some philosophies of children's fitness, and how we can help reclaim the health of our youth through activity.

  • The ultimate goal with any children's fitness initiative is to instil a joy for activity that will carry on into adulthood.
  • One of the most important things we can provide children is the importance of relishing the process.
  • The central nervous system develops spontaneously, but is also formed through the right kind of activity.
  • There are critical and sensitive periods of neural development that are dependent on physical activity.
  • Children get better at moving through opportunity, experience, reward, guidance and proper stimuli.
  • For young children (under 9), fun and play should be the centerpiece of activity. It shouldn't feel like "work". That said, there should be an element of fun at any age.
  • Trying to teach complex skill or designing "plays" makes no sense for children under the age of 6, as they are egocentric.
  • Imposing sets and reps on young children is a form of deprivation of play.
  • Machines are not safer - learning how to move properly is.
  • Slowly introduce rather than force activity on children.
  • Creating inclusive environments are vital to the enjoyment for all.
  • Incorporate variety: Vary the stimulus, including the terrain, situation or the activity.
  • Repetition (within the context of variety) is a good thing. Children need repetition to build familiarity - which begets mastery - which builds confidence.
  • Early sport specialization is detrimental to the overall physical and mental wellbeing of most children.
  • For 6-9 year-olds: This age group should be focused on discovery - put value in the attempt (don't correct form).
  • Incorporate basic skills such as running, climbing, crawling, skipping and jumping. As children progress in age and physical/emotional maturity, add technical skills as needed.
  • There is no such thing as "good" or "bad" coordination. Coordination is a multi-faceted concept that includes balance, spatial awareness and rhythm, to name a few.
  • It's ok for children to fail and yes even cry - this builds resilience and adaptability. Children don't need to be relegated to one emotion. (Note: this doesn't mean we try and "make them cry", it just means that children get frustrated sometimes and we need to tell them it's ok to feel that way).
  • Seize every opportunity you can to get out and be active with your children. Take walks, bike rides, swim or play a sport with them.