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The promotion of physical activity in childhood helps in developing lifelong habits that may forestall future high blood pressure, elevated blood serum cholesterol, increased body fat and heart disease. Numerous studies support the premise that children's health is improved as a result of exercise.




Improved ability to meet the demands of daily physical activity

Improved results in physical performance tests

Improved motor skills

Reduced injuries

Fewer chronic health conditions and a lower risk for developing chronic health problems than sedentary children Introducing Fitness for Preschool years

Children's physical activity should cater to their developmental level and physical health.

Goals for accelerating motor development to maximize sports ability may be inappropriate before age 6.

Free play is preferable to structured exercise for this age group.

Activity programs should be supervised by adults knowledgeable about the needs and limitations of preschool children.

Parents should serve as role models. Physical activities that parents can perform with young children are beneficial. Physical Ability vs. Chronological Age

Fundamental Movement Phase, 2-5 years of age: children begin to develop first skills, locomotion, stability, and manipulation.

Mature stages of Fundamental Movement Phase, 6-8 years of age: children further their development of locomotion and movement skills as well as stability and manipulation.

Early Team Phase, 8-10 years of age: this is a transitional phase from fundamental movement to sports-related skills.

Sports-related Phase, 10-14 years of age: children select specific sports or movement skills in which they wish to become proficient.

Specialized Movement Phase, 14-17 years of age: a stage that represents the final choice of activities a child may tend to pursue in adulthood.




Children should be supervised by an instructor, or another responsible adult at all times.

When working with very young children, windows and storage cabinets should be locked, and electrical outlets covered to prevent accidents.

Floors should be padded, or floor mats should be used.

Lighting should be bright.

The activity room should be free of sharp or obstructive objects.

All equipment, when not in use, should be properly stored.

Exercise in moderate temperatures with low humidity. Equipment

Equipment for children should be designed for age specific groups according to size, material, weight, height and safety regulations.

Equipment for children should be fun, safe, quick and easy to store.

Young children love to use props such as balls, balloons, hula hoops, feathers, hats, gloves and costumes. Use your imagination. Give children the option to choose what they enjoy.

Creating homemade equipment, such as bean bags made from scraps of material or weights made from plastic bottles filled with water, can be a fun project for children to create.




The following recommendations should be modified according to the individual needs of the child. Because children are not able to give legal consent, parents must sign a permission or consent form before children are allowed to participate in classes.



Youth aerobic activities should be performed 2-3 times per week to cause a training effect. However, as with all forms of cardiorespiratory conditioning, the response in children varies.



Attention span and physical capacity of children vary depending on age and developmental stage. It is important for instructors to establish the amount of time appropriate for the chronological age and developmental level of the participants. For youth, duration of activity may be more beneficial than intensity, due to varied developmental stages of maturation. A longer, less intense program allows for greater attention span with less physiological stress, and provides positive health and social benefits.


For cardiorespiratory conditioning, 20-45 minutes of aerobic activity within the appropriate training heart rate range or rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is recommended. An additional 3-10 minutes (3 minutes for preschool children and up to 10 minutes for adolescents) should be provided for warm-up, including rhythmic limbering movements and static stretching to help enhance range of motion and injury prevention. Cool down after aerobics with 3-5 minutes of rhythmic limbering exercises and static stretches.



An aerobic training effect requires sufficient overload to maintain a training heart rate.

Any activity should represent the normal bell curve of heart rates. Intensity varies depending on activity. Adult standards may be used to monitor exercise intensity, but it is more appropriate to calculate 200 bpm minus age vs. 220 bpm minus age for estimated heart rate. The RPE scale should also be modified for youth fitness programs so it is easier to understand.


For an aerobics class, exercise selection, elevated movement, movement patterns and sequencing, speed and lever length are important in regulating the exercise intensity.

Aerobic activities can range from fun group play, obstacle courses, organized recreational sports and games, individual and team sports, dance activities, and step and slide for kids. Activities will vary on the age and skill level of the children.



Children 12-18 years of age may participate in a progressive resistance training program. Supervision by a trained adult is highly recommended.



Children should be encouraged to drink cool water before, during and after exercise to help reduce their chances of becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to elevated body temperatures which can eventually lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or cardiac arrhythmia, if left untreated.



1. Make sure medical clearance has been obtained.

2. Determine the appropriate level of participation.

3. Ensure appropriate shoes are worn.

4. Instruct children how to breathe properly during exercises.

5. Give class orientation, describe the day's activities and teach healthy message.

6. Have children hydrate before, during and after exercise.


Note: Contact AFAA for more complete Youth Fitness Exercise Guidelines. See other AFAA educational cards pertaining to Warming Up and Youth Fitness Program Design. Children should have a physical exam prior to participation in an exercise program.


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