Back to School Fitness Tips for Kids and Parents

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Summer’s over. It’s sad to say. We had a great summer with our boys, Max and Will. Our summer trips were full of traveling around our great state of Michigan and a lot of physical activity such as swimming, biking, running, football, and throwing the frisbee just to name a few. With no school to worry about during the summer, it’s easy to keep our physical fitness levels high. Everyday this summer has been filled with exercise. I’m sure it’s easy for most families to stay active and physically fit during the summer. I see it on FaceBook all the time. However, school schedules are back in place and I know that for our family it’s a lot more difficult to get family fitness in. Vacation 2014 100

Teaching my kids about physical fitness, exercise, and proper nutrition comes naturally to me. Ever since the boys were toddlers, I’ve been teaching them the importance of eating healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, the health benefits of exercise, and how to incorporate physical fitness into their daily lives. My kids are 9 and 5 years old now and both know the difference between “good carbs” and “bad carbs”. What a lean protein is and why protein is important. They also know that in order to stay strong and physically fit, they should do some sort of physical activity or exercise every day.

With school starting back up, keeping up with daily physical activity will be a bit of a challenge for the boys. However, we, their parents, always find ways to keep them active in order to keep their physical fitness levels high. One of the best ways we find to keep our kids active during the school year is to get the kids involved in an organized team sport they enjoy. Key phrase here is “sport they enjoy”. If your child does not enjoy the sport you put him/her in, then it simply will not be fun for him or for you. When a child enjoys and has fun playing a specific sport, then he will certainly put more effort into getting better which will lead to more exercise and training. My son, Max, played on several organized flag football and basketball teams and never really enjoyed it. He was pretty good at both sports but never really liked either one. We’ve found that swimming is his sport. He loves it! Will, my 5 year old, loves any sport right now. So he wants to be on all the sports teams he can.

Participating on a sports team is great exercise and physical fitness for kids. However, this may not be for everyone. So, it is up to the parents to help figure out ways to keep their children active and physically fit during the school year. Remember to make exercise fun and educational for kids. Parents should incorporate the 11 components of physical fitness into kids’ exercise programs. These 11 components of physical fitness can be found by clicking here. The following physical activities and exercises are what I have my boys do outside of their team sports in order to keep their fitness levels high during the school year:

  • Set up an outdoor obstacle course that involves running around chairs, jumping over low brooms supported by chairs, bear crawling on hands and feet, and racing towards a finish line. Obstacle courses help to improve your child’s coordination, agility, cardiovascular endurance, and muscular strength and endurance. High intensity work-outs like this will help to burn a lot of calories and keep your child’s body fat low. Obstacle courses are not only fun, they are a total body work-out.
  • Have your kids complete 50 push-ups throughout the day. Ten when they wake up, ten after breakfast, ten on the playground, ten when they get home from school, and ten before bed. Push ups are a great way to improve kids’ muscular strength and muscular endurance.
  • Jumping rope is a great exercise for kids and it’s fun! Jumping rope will improve your child’s reaction time, speed, and cardiovascular endurance and will certainly help to keep your child at a healthy weight.
  • Go for a bike ride. This is my boys’ favorite exercise to do. Biking helps to improve your kids’ cardiovascular endurance, balance, and muscular strength and endurance. We love riding bikes with our kids!
  • After homework is done, we send our kids outside. We’ve found that our boys are always running around when they go outside. Instead of sitting inside and playing video games or looking at a computer, get your kids outside! Their imaginations will take over and they’ll be running around in no time.

Vacation 2014 102These physical activities for kids are just a few of my favorites. Remember to keep exercise fun and educational. Physical fitness should be fun for kids and adults. If exercise is not fun, kids will tend to not engage in it and their physical fitness levels will drop. Be sure to teach your kids the importance of  incorporating the 11 components of physical fitness into their daily exercise program. These components of physical fitness, along with healthy eating, are important for total body health and wellness. Just because summer is over, don’t neglect your child’s physical fitness. Make the time for exercise everyday, be creative with your child’s exercise program, and parents should exercise with your children. You and your kids can be healthy together!

What is the Best Exercise?

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I have many people ask me this question every week. What I tell them is that there is no “best” exercise. All exercise is good. You just have to find the “best” exercises that suit your needs, physical fitness level, and lifestyle. For me, the best exercise is jumping rope.

I’ve been jumping rope for 20 years now. I had gotten out of the Marine Corps and got a membership at my local Bally’s Total Fitness. My first day working out there I saw a gentleman in the aerobics studio jumping rope all by himself. I watched him in awe. The way he moved.  Swift, steady, precise, and rhythmic. I had visions of watching the movies Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III from when I was a kid. Trying not to disturb this obviously “in-shape” man, I entered the aerobics studio, picked up a jump rope, and attempted to jump rope on the opposite side of the studio. I thought, “I’m a Marine, if he can do this so can I”. Ha! My attempts to find rhythm, steadiness, and precision were replaced with clumsiness, stumbling, and continued misses on the jump. I felt a little embarrassed, especially since we were the only two in the studio.

The expert rope jumper obviously watched me struggle and stopped to offer advice. He gave me these 3 following tips:

  • Start slow and low – “Low” meaning you should not jump high when jumping over the rope. You should jump just high enough to get the rope under your feet. “Slow” meaning when you are first starting out with this endeavor go slow to get the rhythm, coordination, and reaction time when the rope is coming around.
  • Keep your body tight – “Tight” meaning keep your arms and shoulders tight and let the rope turn from the wrists. Don’t waste energy moving your arms in big circles. The more movement you have, then the quicker you will burn yourself out.
  • Start with the most basic foot work that you learned as a kid – Meaning just try skipping over the rope. Don’t try the fancy “Rocky” moves right away. You must get a feel for the rope and learn timing and coordination. Once those 2 things are accomplished, then move on to more advanced foot work and speed.

Those 3 tips were just the beginning for me as they are for everyone else that has learned that jumping rope is much more than just skipping and jumping for 30 to 60 seconds at a time. Over 20 years of training with the rope, I have developed skills that are very advanced. Not only has my reaction time, coordination, agility, and speed increased, but I’ve found that my muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance has drastically improved also. I can easily jump rope at a high intensity level for 30 minutes now. Jumping rope can get boring just like any other cardiovascular exercise, but once you know a good routine of tricks, foot work, and movement, you’ll find that it is not boring at all. Quite the opposite!

You will certainly see the following improvements when you add jumping rope into your daily exercise program along with practicing healthy eating habits:

  1. Improves overall body composition by decreasing body fat, increasing muscle mass, and increasing weight loss (health-related component of physical fitness)
  2. Increased cardiovascular endurance (health-related component of physical fitness)
  3. Increased muscular endurance (health-related component of physical fitness)
  4. Decreased blood pressure
  5. Increased agility (skill-related component of physical fitness)
  6. Increased coordination (skill-related component of physical fitness)
  7. Increased reaction time (skill-related component of physical fitness)
  8. Increased mental focus
  9. Increased speed (skill-related component of physical fitness)

So, my best exercise is jumping rope. It improves 7 of the 11 components of physical fitness. It is a total body workout. It is challenging. Most importantly, jumping rope is fun! Thank you to that expert rope jumper I met at Bally’s. If it wasn’t for him, I may have given up and never found my “best” exercise.

Best Exercise Equipment on a Budget

Jeff Angel

You don’t have to have a big, fancy, expensive gym in your home to get a great work-out and see results. Yes, I must admit that having a Hoist V6, a top-of-the- line Octane, and chrome dumbbells that go up to 200 lbs would be awesome. But, let’s be realistic. Most of us can’t afford this type of fitness equipment nor do we have the space for it in our homes or apartments. What if I told you that you can get a great in-home gym for less than $200.00. Most of you wouldn’t believe me. Some of the best exercise equipment you can buy is relatively inexpensive and can be stored away in a closet or under a bed after being used. I emphasis “being used”, because you must get the equipment out and actually utilize it. I’m going to recommended some of the key items you should have in hand in order to get your body in the best shape by summer. You need to get the motivation and desire to change your body now. Not in a week, or in a month. Now is the time!

The LIST:

1. Jump Rope – This is an old school exercise that does not require a lot of space. A good jump rope can cost approximately $15.00 at any sporting goods store.  Jumping rope is a GREAT way to improve cardio conditioning and burn a lot of calories in a short period of time. This is my favorite exercise to do in order to stay lean.

2. BOSU – Great piece of equipment that is the size of a half of a 55 cm Fit-Ball. It is dome-shaped and can be used with both sides up (see our BOSU YouTube video). I always emphasize core strengthening and the BOSU is one of the best items to help you do just that. Exercising on a BOSU will improve balance, endurance, and overall body strength when utilized properly. The BOSU costs approximately $115.00. Slightly expensive, but well worth the investment when you use it 3 times a week.

3. Dumbbells – A set of light-weight hand-held dumbbells adds the resistance you need in order to improve strength and develop muscle definition. I recommend a set of dumbbells that range from 5 to 10 lbs for women and 8 to 15 lbs for men. I am not recommending heavy weights for the exercises I teach. Multi-muscle group exercises consist of light-weight high-repetition movements that are designed to significantly increase one’s heart rate and incorporate several of the 11 components of physical fitness (visit our YouTube channel for examples). A set of light weight dumbbells including 3 different weights will cost approximately $50.00.

4. YOUR BODY – You need to get your body up and moving in order for any of the above equipment to work properly. Find the motivation deep down inside and start moving. The best part of this last piece of equipment is that it is FREE!

Total Cost for your new in-home gym: $180.00

Piecing together an exercise routine with this minimal amount of exercise equipment may seem difficult. However, if you are serious about getting in shape, you must educate yourself. Watch exercise videos, read exercise/fitness books, or hire a personal trainer just for a few sessions to learn a few basic exercise routines. The information is out there. You need to take the time to find it and get the motivation to start your exercise program. Now is the time to get ready for summer and change your body. Get Moving!