The Three Pillars of Fitness
The three pillars that support a well-rounded fitness program are aerobic exercise, muscular strength, and stretching. Introducing children in a fun way to these elements of exercise lays a good foundation for a fit life. Children can develop in all of these areas through gymnastics classes. Childrens exercise should be fun and does not need to be a mini version of an adults gym workout to be effective.
Stretching is important to increase flexibility and develop range of motion in joints. Increased flexibility helps us move more fluidly through our daily tasks and lessens the potential for injuries. Stretching also promotes good posture, circulation, and helps reduce stress. Stretching is useful at the beginning of a workout and also at the end to stretch muscles that have contracted during aerobic and strength exercises.
Aerobic exercise is a physical activity that uses the large muscle groups, increases the heart rate and makes breathing faster and deeper. It helps oxygen get transported more efficiently through the body and is good for the heart, circulation and overall functioning.
Muscular strength training builds endurance and the strength for everyday tasks, it also helps keep bones strong and helps burn calories more efficiently. Strength training should include developing the core muscles in the abdomen, lower back and pelvis that provide stability for the whole body. Core strength and flexibility are key components in maintaining good balance, which is crucial to feeling physically in control and lessening your chance of injury.
Now, back to childrens exercise and how gymnastics provides a full exercise program. Kids run and/or jump when they first enter the gym, getting muscles warmed up and blood pumping. Stretching has added value for young children because it gives the child a chance to move purposely into different positions and learn what it feels like to touch their toes, support themselves with their hands and arms, etc. While school age kids have mastered more of this body awareness, preschoolers are still learning the basics of how to make their bodys move the way they want them to.
After stretching, the children move into strength building activities such as swinging on the bars, walking balance beams, and tumbling on the floor or mats. Learning bar skills, swinging on rings, and climbing or swinging on the rope build upper body strength. Tumbling builds overall strength and coordination along with developing the motor planning skills needed for aerobic activities. So, within a gymnastics class, children have worked on all three pillars of fitness.
The strength and skill gained through gymnastics classes give kids valuable tools for fitness opportunities outside the gym. Active play on the playground is an excellent way for children to continue to exercise. Take a few minutes to stretch with your child when you get home from the playground and they will have had a fun and balanced fitness experience. Remember that a key factor in getting children to be physically fit is to make it fun.
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