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Sara Gaynes

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Kids And Exercise: Where's the Line?

Posted: 08/24/11 04:57 PM ET

When it comes to kids exercising, everyone on up to the FLOTUS is in agreement that more movement at a young age is a good thing. But while traditionally kids' exercise has happened on fields, in school gyms and in backyards, there's been more and more talk of kids in the gyms of the adult world. And a new study indicates that an exercise routine of plyometrics can improve running and jumping technique for sports in kids ages five to 14.

I didn't get much exercise as a kid, mostly because I didn't enjoy the competitive element of team sports (nor did I much enjoy being very, very bad at them). While I agree that there should be a physical outlet for those who shy away from bats and balls, kiddie ellipticals don't seem like the solution. When you're young and you have that much energy -- not to mention imagination -- I believe you shouldn't be confined to sets of the same boring movement over and over again. I was recently sent information about a 10-year-old with his own series of fitness DVDs (they call him the "workout kid") and I couldn't help feeling bad not only for the kids in the video ("that looks hard!" is a particularly gut-wrenching line) but the leader himself. Certainly he's in great shape, but there are so many more kid-approved ways to get muscles that don't involved being locked onto a gym mat. Staying active should be fun while you can make it fun -- save the weight lifting and toning and stationary cardio for those of us who no longer have the time or resources for a good game of tag.

Especially in this 21st-century age, I think something like a Wii Fit is less depressing than watching a fourth grader crank out crunches. I would have killed to have a Wii Fit as a 9-year-old (I've tried it as a young adult, and that thing will get your heart rate UP! But it is a blast). But, as I'm not a parent myself, I wonder if there's something I'm missing. Richard Bruffy, the 13-year-old bodybuilder recently featured on the Today show alluded to above, seems to genuinely enjoy his time spent pumping iron and comes off happier about logging hours in the gym rather than on astroturf. Parents (and anyone, really), please share your opinions about kids exercising on cardio equipment, with weights, doing plyometrics -- all the things typically reserved for before- and after-work gym sessions. Do you think it's safe? Effective? Damaging? Weigh in (pun intended) in the comments.

 

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