CNY Orthopedic Sports Medicine, PC: Article: General Health and Fitness: Ages 7-16


General Health and Fitness: Ages 7-16
Evan Herold
Copyright 2000

In matters of fitness and health, good habits that are developed early in life often continue through adulthood. Children and young teens that are exposed to exercise and physical activities that are both fun and social are likely to develop a lasting interest in fitness. Typically, team sports that involve a wide variety of skills, interaction and enjoyable play are the favored athletic activities of children. Young teens respond to similar qualities, but also enjoy a larger element of physical challenge.

Children have significantly less-developed motor skills and coordination than adults. Sports that usually appeal to this age range are adaptable to a child's coordination ability. One reason soccer is an especially popular child's game is that it can be played and enjoyed with only basic athletic skills. As the child develops ability, the game becomes more involving, and the child can progress to greater skill levels and athleticism without tiring of the game.

Sports, such as tennis, can initially be frustrating to children, young teens (or even adults). The hand/eye coordination necessary to play at an enjoyable level is much higher than in most other sports. Hockey, another initially difficult sport, makes similar demands, yet the coordination learned can be transferred across many other activities.

To some beginners, the additional challenge is part of the fun. As a parent, it is usually a good idea to expose a child to a variety of sports, this allows the child to pick and choose their sport of most interest. Children can often become surprisingly involved in sports requiring high skill levels and lengthy learning periods. To some, the time and concentration necessary to learn a sport is part of the enjoyment of the game.

Athletic interests sometimes change in early teen years. With the higher strength and coordination ability of a teenager, the importance of physical challenges increases. Young teens may start working-out at a gym, lifting weights, and concentrating on sport-specific exercise routines. If these changes are made with moderation and good coaching, they can greatly enhance the physical health of a teenager. Proper weightlifting will help increase flexibility, prevent injury, and can work to develop areas of the body often not impacted by certain sports.

The significance of social interaction within a sport may also change, as many teenagers begin to gravitate towards individually oriented activities. Most track and field, or swimming sports rely less on team interaction; in these activities, the individual's own performance and style of play becomes more important. As teens progress with their athletics, a good program will primarily concentrate on developing aerobic ability. This will give the endurance necessary to play at higher levels for longer periods of time, and will give a strong foundation for continued fitness and health into adulthood.


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