By Maria Chatman, Co-Founder
As fitness enthusiasts continue to up the ante — higher intensity workouts, sweaty bootcamps and obstacle races, intensive yoga practices, and awareness of proper nutrition hitting an all-time high — some of us fit-goers are now having kids. And with this, we are witnessing a huge movement: more and more fitness-enthused parents are striving to imbue their children with an awareness of the same healthy habits they themselves have adopted, the kind of habits that they will carry with them for a lifetime.
Parents know that there are certain life skills that are important to pass along at an early age — skills that when learned during formative years, help strengthen one’s character as they grow into adulthood. Of course, proper manners, empathy, fiscal responsibility, and critical problem solving initially come to mind as the essential ingredients for a fruitful life, but establishing healthy habits is quickly becoming the new black for true foundation building in kids.
In a time when we are swapping lattes for matcha and ditching happy hour to hit the turf, health and wellness have become such a high priority that (dare we say) it’s actually become COOL TO MOVE! In recent years, it has not been uncommon to see an expecting Mom keep at her daily exercise routine — and then shortly after giving birth, join in a Mommy & Me fitness class or lead a group ‘strollercise’ workout, getting her heart rate up however she can. That mindfulness has evolved to the kids as well, ensuring that child-rearing includes getting kids into action and introducing the true joy of exercise at an early age.
It’s no surprise the industry is taking notice with youth programs like PopFit Kids, establishing the latest trend in fitness. NYC’s hottest fitness studios, once reserved for adults only, now offer exercise classes for children as young as 5 (tailored to their age and understanding level, of course!). Nike recently hosted its first Swoosh Saturday, offering kids the opportunity to be active at one of the city’s most exclusive facilities. Exceed Physical Culture in Tribeca partners with PopFit Kids to host Sweaty Saturdays where adult and youth classes are offered simultaneously, making a family workout an easy part of everyone’s weekend. And then there are the ever-popular athleisurewear companies such as Lululemon, Athleta, Onzie, and Terez, all launching youth athleticwear, so young girls can strut their favorite funky legging prints on the way to their Mom’s fitness studio.
Exercising together as a family is a wonderful way for parents to bond with their children. It also enables super busy parents to get in workouts they might otherwise miss. Here are 5 things parents can teach kids about health and wellness, to help establish positive associations with exercise and build that foundation for life-long healthy habits.
1. Fitness is Fun
Kids naturally want to move at an early age, but today’s digital lifestyle can encourage kids to become inactive. Making movement fun is key to engaging youngsters. Game-ify your child’s fitness, and it will make working out too much fun to miss! One of our fit game favorites is Fit Tag: Kids love a good ol’ game of tag. In our version, “safe” is when you are in plank position and therefore cannot be tagged. It's cardio and core strengthening and can be done anytime, anywhere.
Empowering children through physical activity is a wonderful way to build strong will and self-esteem. Give children positive feedback and compliments when they do something healthy for their bodies, and instill in them the confidence that comes with a healthy lifestyle. This helps teach kids the responsibility that comes with taking care of their bodies, and the rewards that come with doing so.
3. Something for Everyone
While youth sports are wonderful for teaching teamwork, discipline, and sportsmanship, they can take a toll on self-esteem if your child is not super skillful in athletics. Show kids that fitness is for everyone, and that if you have a body, you can move and be fit. Take the time to find a form of movement your child enjoys and can excel in, whether it be a team sport like soccer or something more independent like skateboarding or a rock climbing gym.
4. Connect Health with Power
Kids love showing off almost as much as the person posting gym selfies. Educating your children on the benefits of exercise and proper nutrition is a sure way to get them excited about it. Ever ask a child to show you their muscle? There is a reason we all identify Popeye with eating his spinach. Kids want power and independence, fitness is a wonderful expression of personal power.
5. Whole Health
Health goes beyond running and jumping. Teaching children mindfulness can minimize stress, calm the mind, and release physical tension. Stress is a serious issue for kids, and mindful practices such as meditation and breathing are tools that can benefit not only their physical growth, but also their social, emotional, and intellectual development.
Role modeling is one of the most influential methods parents have for setting behavioral examples for children — so go ahead, strap on your kid in place of a weighted vest, and get those life-long healthy habits started. The sense of pride the first time your kid asks to take a walk, over see a movie, will be worth it!
Maria Chatman is the co-founder of PopFit Kids, a mobile children’s fitness organization based in New York City, where kids learn why ‘It’s Cool to Move’. Maria’s extensive experience in family health programming, coupled with her intense interest in personal fitness, led her to realize there was a lack of accessible fitness programs for kids who either needed an alternative to traditional youth sports or just a fun place to move. The mission of PopFit Kids is to get kids excited about physical activity and teach them that lifelong healthy habits can be fun! The PopFit Kids “Fit Five” curriculum — Cardio, Strength, Flexibility, Balance & Endurance — inspires movement while engaging children on the fundamentals of fitness. Maria holds the following certifications: ACE Group Fitness, AFPA Children’s Fitness Specialist, Karma Kids Yoga, Baptiste Level 1 Yoga, and TRX.