Establishing good health habits for girls. Now is the time.
Several years ago, I taught a barre class for 7th & 8th grade girls from a local school as part of their wellness and fitness class. Because I’m an exercise nerd with two daughters myself, I was super excited. Excited… and then surprised. While these bubbly, enthusiastic young girls appeared healthy and fit – some of them already active in sports – many lacked flexibility and most lacked strength. Particularly core strength. Planks and push-ups, hallmarks of many strength-training classes, presented the greatest challenge. (By the way, these same results presented themselves at a class I taught to girls 18-20 earlier that year.)
How could that be? I tested it with a mock class at home. My girls were younger, but still active in sports. They struggled. Then I remembered their early basketball coach asking why, with a mother who planks for a living, my daughters struggled with a proper push-up. I wondered too. And then I remembered when I played sports in school. The male athletes often hit the weight room for strengthening and conditioning after school, while we went to the field for drills and skills.
Now, I am not suggesting for a second that our school coaches and PE teachers aren’t top notch. I believe school sports, PE classes and extracurricular activities, offer tremendous benefits to the young body and mind. But when class, practice or the game is over, and schoolwork and other obligations are calling kids home, is it possible that our girls are not getting enough time to focus on strength training and flexibility, two of the three cornerstones of a good exercise program?
During adolescence, your child needs 60 minutes of physical activity EVERY day. As busy parents, we may rely on sports and school to deliver their daily dose. But, we may be underestimating the time actually spent moving. Think about it. Some of the time spent allocated for gym class, or sports practices, are for observing and learning, not actually moving. During games, players may spend a period of time on the bench. And what if your daughter doesn’t play sports at all?
Routine and consistency are important, particularly when it comes to exercise and nutrition (more on that later). Being active every day can help adolescents improve heart health and fitness; develop strong muscles and bones; promote good posture; and help them maintain a healthy weight. Beyond physical benefits, an active lifestyle improves concentration and memory; increases self-confidence; reduces stress; and improves sleep.
When pre-summer routines go haywire from vacation and the beach, most of us exercise less… and so do our kids. The fall presents a change in the season and a rare opportunity to establish new routines. So now is the time.
Whatever the exercise program, it should be planned and consistent. Encourage your girls (boys too!) to try something new that they enjoy and help them incorporate not only cardio, but also strength and flexibility into their daily activities. A consistent exercise regimen will not only help them feel strong, but will also better equip them for that daunting and overwhelming task of growing up.
Learn more about how to establish good exercise habits for girls.
Written by BE Co-Creator, Nancy Meyer