Make Fitness Fun With Exercise Balls
The main deterrent to exercise for many of us is time. Even kids claim to be "too busy" for a regular exercise routine! At the end of the day, these are just excuses. As a parent, I've learned that kids tend to prioritize things they enjoy. Unfortunately, this usually involves sedentary activities such as watching television and playing video games. How can you make exercise fun and entertaining so our kids look forward to doing it and continue on the routine?
In my practice, I've learned that you have to keep it fresh by continually changing the exercises. One way I spice things up is by utilizing different types of exercise balls, particularly medicine balls and stability balls.
Kid-friendly exercises, after the jump...
Medicine balls are weighted balls usually ranging from 2-16 pounds. They vary in size from that of a volleyball to slightly larger than a basketball. The newer ones have a strong rubber finish that allows you to bounce them against a wall or on the ground.
For kids aged 5-8, I recommend using a medicine ball up to 4 pounds. For kids aged 9-12 I recommend using up to 6 pound medicine balls, while kids 12 and over can use up to 10-12 pound medicine balls.
Here are two easy medicine ball exercises that you can try with your kids.
1. Partner Chest-Squat Throws
Stand 5-10 feet away facing your partner. Hold the ball at chest level with both hands. Lower your body into a squat position. Exhale as you stand back up and throw the ball to your partner. Continue passing the ball back and forth for 1-2 minutes. Keep track of the number of throws you make in the set amount of time and try to beat it next time. This exercise helps develop strength and muscle endurance in your legs and upper body.
2. Partner Side Throws
Stand 5-10 feet away from your partner, facing the same direction. Stand in a half-sitting position with your knees bent and feet wider than shoulder-width apart, holding the ball in front of you. Swing the ball to your partner as if you are throwing a bucket of water towards him/her. As your partner catches the ball, he/she repeats the motion and swings the ball back. Repeat this for 1-2 minutes and then both of you turn and face the other way and complete another 1-2 minutes of side throws for the other side. This exercise improves strength and range of motion in your core (stomach and lower back).
Stability balls are the larger colorful balls that are filled with air and are usually found bouncing around a gym. They are very light and typically come in 3 sizes: small (45 cm diameter), medium (55 cm diameter) and large (65 cm diameter).
For kids aged 5-12, I recommend using the 45 cm stability ball. Kids aged 12 and over can use the 45 or 55 cm diameter stability ball, depending on their height.
Have your kids give these two simple stability ball exercises a try.
1. Wall Squat
Stand facing away from a wall, with the ball against your lower back between you and the wall. Slowly lower your body into a squat position and hold for 10 seconds. The ball will roll up your back slightly. Stand back up and repeat for 10 – 20 repetitions. This exercise builds strength and endurance in your lower body.
2. Stability Ball Plank
From your hands and knees, lean on the ball in front of you with your elbows bent and your weight along your forearms. Raise your knees off the ground and keep your body straight from your head to your toes. Hold this position for 1-2 minutes. This exercise will strengthen your abdominal muscles and arms.
Each of these exercise tools has a wide range of exercises, for the absolute beginner to the advanced-level participant. With proper guidance, kids can use medicine and stability balls to safely and effectively build strength, muscle endurance, body awareness, balance and coordination. Whether your child is kicking a soccer ball, playing on the monkey bars or walking up a set of stairs, these exercise tools can help enhance your child's health.
Reggie Reyes is a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.