Category Archives for Fitness

10 Unique Individual Sports Your Students Will Love

There are a wide variety of unique individual sports that students will love to try. Team sports are great because they teach kids how to get along and relate well to others, but individual sports have many benefits too. They can breed independence and confidence in children and adolescents, among other qualities. Individual sports allow the athlete to progress at their own pace and set personal goals that won’t affect teammates. They can compete against themselves without worrying about disappointing anyone, which can be a great relief for students. The importance of physical activity to children’s health is important to note, too. This article will explore the following ten individual sports, some of which might be fun to try in your next physical education class:

  • Martial arts
  • Kickboxing
  • Fencing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Wrestling
  • Running
  • Skiing or Snowboarding
  • Cycling
  • Golf

1. Martial Arts

It’s easy to see why many kids are picking up martial arts and sticking with it. The sport is all about codified systems and traditions of combat practice, with various levels (signified by the different colored belts in karate, for example). Martial arts has mental and spiritual components and physical aspects, making it popular for kids who are looking for something different than the average sport. They also offer lessons on self-defense, which every student should know. Students would be excited to learn some martial arts moves in their next gym class.

2. Kickboxing

Kickboxing is an outstanding individual sport that you can introduce your students to during physical education classes. It’s a great option because you don’t need any materials or equipment to participate in kickboxing, and it will get your students’ heart rates up. Kickboxing, like martial arts, is also an opportunity for students to learn some self-defense techniques. Moves like jabbing and uppercutting will give them physical strength while clearing any thoughts that might be distracting them.

3. Fencing

Fencing is a lesser-known individual sport, but chances are your students will love trying it. Fencing requires more equipment than the other individual sports mentioned so far because you’ll need to make sure your students have padding and helmets to wear since swords are involved. There are various strategies and techniques associated with fencing that will stimulate students mentally, and they will be eager to learn more about the sport. Fencing is fun because it’s a competitive sport, too, though you’re only competing against one other individual.

4. Swimming

Swimming is a classic option in the world of individual sports. There are chances, of course, to make swimming more of a team effort with relay races. But for the most part, swimming is for individuals to compete against each other and their best times. Getting a personal record, or PR, is always something fun to strive for because you’re competing against yourself. Swimming is also a great life skill for students to learn because they will be safe whenever they are near water. Knowing how to do basic strokes, tread water, and float could come in handy if they ever find themselves in a body of water in an emergency.

5. Tennis

Another excellent individual sport is tennis. Of course, you will need a court to play an actual tennis game, but you can start by teaching your students the techniques in any gym or large outdoor space. Like many of the other individual sports mentioned, tennis is a lifetime sport. Starting students young is a great idea because they can continue to play it for the rest of their lives. Tennis can be played in pairs, but it is considered an individual sport for the most part. Teach your students how to score correctly, what the different lines on the court mean, and the various racquet techniques, and they’ll be well on their way to becoming tennis pros.

6. Wrestling

Wrestling might not be for everyone, seeing as it’s most popular with boys and young men at the moment. But that could change if women are introduced to the sport at a younger age. Wrestling is typically done in a room with special mat floors to cushion any injuries that could occur due to the physical nature of the sport. If you’re trying wrestling with students, make sure they have a handle on the rules, etiquette, and techniques before you start. Pair students by size to make sure there aren’t any uneven match-ups, otherwise, it won’t be fun for all the students.

7. Running

Whether it’s cross country or track, running is another excellent individual sport to introduce to your students. It’s so simple and easy, too, because most students are natural at it. Training only requires a good pair of tennis shoes and a track. If your school doesn’t have a track available, try using the gym or playground and set up a course for the students. You can start by having them run a certain distance or for an allotted amount of time. Running is another sport that will age well because it’s a great stress reliever, so it can help students’ mental health. Getting your students’ heartbeats up will help them physically and mentally.

8. Skiing or Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are individual sports that can be done in the wintertime if you live in the right climate. Though not the most inexpensive sport, it’s a great option for individuals who would rather compete against themselves than their teammates. Skiing and snowboarding require different skills and techniques, but they both provide great physical exercise and a mental reprieve from everyday life stresses. Students might enjoy trying cross country skiing first because it’s a less expensive activity that can be done at a nearby park or golf course.

9. Cycling

Cycling is an individual sport that you might not think of initially. Students can compete in cycling competitions or even triathlons, combining the skills they’ve learned in swimming, running, and cycling. It’s a great individual sport, mainly because students can enjoy leisurely bicycling or do it for sport. The workout will accelerate their heart rate and work their muscles.

10. Golf

Like tennis and swimming, golf is an individual sport that many people recognize as a lifelong activity. Not many people get into it at a young age, but it’s a sport that requires a lot of concentrated practice to improve. Try introducing golf to your students and see if it interests them. You can teach them the basics of swinging a golf club, the variety of clubs and when it’s appropriate to use them, and the etiquette that goes along with the sport.

Benefits of Individual Sports

Helping your students discover new and exciting individual sports could be a great benefit to them. They will learn how to be competitive and challenge themselves to do better at each match, race, or meet. There are so many unique individual sports to try, and your students will have fun trying them out to see what they like!

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

3 Smart Ways To Social Distance While Playing Skillastics®

We have all had to adjust to social distancing and learn to stay apart – as uncomfortable or odd as that may feel.  Sometimes, we forget that distance does not equate to isolation; we don’t need to be totally separate, just 6 feet. There is a big difference between social distance and social isolation. There is still much we can do from 6 feet apart!

Schools can still offer physical activity programs that get kids involved. With a few modifications, children can participate in many ways while still maintaining social distancing.

Here are just three ways that this can work:

1. Small Group Team Space

Children work well and learn best in groups. The ability for kids to share information and learn from one another is a powerful learning tool. When it comes to physical activities, it’s also much more fun. Since social distancing in large groups is difficult, small groups are optimal for maintaining distance while still participating in Skillastics activities. The large playing mat effortlessly defines the space and allows students to spread out around the board, keeping their distance from other kids.

2. Partners From 6 Feet Away

In partnerships, children can mirror one another to learn steps, help one another remember rules, and share their successes. The ability to partner gives kids more socialization and better opportunities to learn. As partners, kids can have fun while participating in physical activities and staying safe. Children in pairs can easily maintain their 6 feet. They can even work into their partnership a “watch-out” for their distancing to help each other stay apart.

3. Well-Defined Play Space

It can be hard to remember to keep distance, and some children may have difficulty remembering. The large play mat is an excellent visual reminder and placeholder to keep kids apart. Two students playing simultaneously have an easier time staying on opposite sides of the mat, and taking turns encourages children to stop and think about their spacing. The mat is also easy to clean after use with a simple sanitizing spray and wipe-down.

Finding A Way

We have come far learning about ways to stay safe, and it’s clear that masks, social distance, and handwashing keep us healthy. We can work within these new requirements to continue our lives, even if it’s not exactly the same or feels different. We can work with this! It’s a matter of staying aware, making smart choices, and putting safety first.

Skillastics Large Group Physical Activities has always offered kids a way to have fun while getting active, but it’s also become a safe alternative for keeping kids healthy, both physically and during COVID. The large play mat and a few modifications mean kids can still be active and stay safe.  

CLICK HERE for the Skillastics® COVID Safety Guidelines.

To learn more about social distancing while staying physically active, email mailto:info@skillastics.com or call us today at (888) 842-7746.  For more resources to manage remote physical activity programs, head to www.skillastics.com.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

Fun Ways To Keep Kids Active in Your Boys and Girls Club

Since 1860, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America has been an essential part of learning and fitness for children throughout the country. The national organization’s mission is to enable young people to reach their potential as responsible, educated, and active adult citizens.

Boys and Girls Clubs provide a safe space for young people to connect and play. The Club Experience is essential in fostering positive ideals in children and teens. Members make plans for the future, learning character-building and leadership skills, and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

The pandemic has posed some difficulties for after school programs like Boys and Girls Clubs as everything from school to extracurriculars is moving online. It’s challenging to find ways to incorporate fun, exciting activities into virtual or hybrid learning environments. Find some fun fitness ideas to keep your program participants active and healthy, both in-person and online.

Keeping Kids Active During COVID-19 and Beyond

During a child’s formative years, learning cannot be limited to classroom settings. As challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic continue to arise, especially in schools and after school programs, educators have to get creative to keep kids engaged in learning and activities. You can use interest-based education or virtual activity programs in your Boys and Girls Club to get participants excited about the activities of the day during the pandemic and beyond.

Interest-Based Learning

Interest-based learning includes concepts, skills, and activities that are of interest to each particular student. People learn in a wide variety of ways and have expansive ranges of interests. When your Boys and Girls Club participants aren’t excited about the activities offered, they are less likely to stay actively involved in the program. Use interest-based learning to connect with your kids and keep them moving with activities they actually enjoy.

Types of Interests

There are two types of interests that attract an individual’s attention to a specific activity. These interests are:

  1. Personal Interests: Interest in a particular object, action, or theme. For example, sports teams, dolls, movie or television characters, comics, crafting, animals, etc.
  2. Situational Interests: Particular activities or materials that attract the child’s interest, typically in the form of a unique experience or unexpected situation. This is more typical of a group setting like a Boys and Girls Club.

Virtual Activity Programs

Another great way to get children moving while maintaining interest during the pandemic is with virtual physical activity programs. There is an abundance of virtual resources available for physical educators as more and more Boys and Girls Clubs are forced to move their programming online. Boys and Girls Clubs can create virtual club programming that includes games, exercises, or specific sports and activities to interest after school club participants.

4 Fun Activities To Keep Kids Moving in Your Boys and Girls Club

There are tons of fun ways to keep kids entertained, engaged, and active during the pandemic and beyond. Integrate individual sports, activity kits, and online learning programs into your Boys and Girls Club to encourage children’s physical fitness.

1. Individual Sports

While there’s no denying that children love to play team sports with their friends, there are newfound difficulties presented during the pandemic that deter participation in team-based programs. You can implement individual sports into your Boys and Girls Club programming to encourage physical fitness while still maintaining social distancing. Some fantastic and fun examples of individual sports include:

  • Tennis
  • Badminton
  • Martial Arts
  • Track Sports
  • Golf
  • Skiing (Cross-country or Downhill)
  • Gymnastics
  • Cycling

2. Fitness Activity Kits

Another fun way to implement physical fitness activities into your Boys and Girls Club programming is with fitness activity kits. There are various games and kits available to educators that improve a range of skills, both physically and interpersonally.

You can buy fitness activity kits for a specific sport, like volleyball or basketball. Fitness activity kits also engage children in learning about nutrition, language, interpersonal skills, and much more. Activity kits are easy to implement both in-person and virtually, so your program participants can benefit from them in any environment.

3. Boys and Girls Clubs My.Future Program

Industries worldwide continue to struggle to adapt to new and necessary changes as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. After school programs like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America are scrambling to find fun ways to keep kids active while still maintaining social distancing and other safety protocols.

To keep up with all of the drastic changes happening country-wide, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America created a program called My.Future. This program is especially beneficial for school-aged children because it’s an attractive online platform that allows for learning and fun free from the fear of cyber-bullying.

Kids can use the My.Future program to showcase their creativity through the online platform locally or nationally. The platform has functionality for sharing media, so children can continue to socialize safely while away from school. There are tons of video resources available through the program that provide fitness tips or fun follow-along activities for children to partake in at home, too.

4. Virtual Physical Activity Programs

Whether your Boys and Girls Club is going entirely virtual, remaining on-site, or implementing a hybrid-learning experience, you are probably worried about how to keep participants active while still remaining safe. After school programs across the country are all experiencing the same challenges, so program leaders must adapt.

Educators and experts are working together to create straightforward solutions for the new problems posed by the pandemic. Virtual physical activity programs seamlessly integrate into your existing online learning environment, so you can avoid technical difficulties and get your program participants moving again. You can find a wide range of virtual physical activity programs that offer a variety of unique physical education experiences, including programs that focus on:

  • General Fitness
  • Kickboxing
  • Martial Arts
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Mindfulness
  • Dancing

Virtual physical activity programs are an entertaining way to get children involved in fitness activities. A well-crafted program can teach kids the importance of physical fitness and instill essential skills and values that will benefit their lives into adulthood.

Finding Time To Play During a Pandemic

During these challenging times created by Covid-19, it can become increasingly difficult to discern the best way to maintain participation in your Boys and Girls Club. There are various virtual programs available to keep kids active even if they’re stuck at home. There are also plenty of individual sports to implement into your programming to encourage physical fitness while still social distancing.

Safety is essential, but so is exercise; children need at least sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day to stay healthy. As America continues to navigate these trying times, Boys and Girls Clubs must adapt programming to protect participants’ health while still offering fun, beneficial activities.

Understand your club participants’ interests and integrate them into the activities and exercises for the program. Take time to shop for engaging activity kits and online programming. When fitness is made fun and interesting for them, kids will always find time to play, regardless of the world’s state.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

How Budget Cuts Have Created a Health Epidemic in Students

It’s no big secret that physical fitness is essential to living a long and healthy life, yet Physical Education is only mandatory in 8 of the 50 states. In the recent decade, the obesity epidemic in America has been at the forefront of health crises. It leads many to wonder, why are budget cuts toward Physical Education in schools so frequent?

The sad reality is that many K-12 school districts throughout the U.S. rely on high test scores to secure funding. Budgets are focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, while “non-essential” programs like art, music, and physical education are overlooked.

Underfunding, or in some cases total defunding of these programs, is incredibly detrimental to developing children’s health and well-being. Budget reductions to physical education and after school programs have contributed significantly to creating a health epidemic in students across the country.

Daily exercise is crucial to the positive development of children’s bodies and minds. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children ages 5-17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

Sometimes, Physical Education class is the only way for children with busy parents to receive structured time for physical activity. Participation in after school sports or travel sports programs is a privilege not afforded to many. When kids lose out on the opportunity for exercise because of budget issues, they are affected in a variety of ways, both physically and mentally.

The problems that come with a lack of adequate exercise lead to irreversible mental and physical health issues, like cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, depression, and other severe ailments that contribute to the ongoing health epidemic faced by young Americans every day.

How Budget Cuts Created a Health Epidemic in Students

Budget cuts are a stepping stone to a major health epidemic in American students. When government agencies slash physical education budgets, they think they’re saving themselves money. While this may be true in the short term, over time, it will wind up being much more costly than expected.

Childhood obesity is steadily on the rise annually, while heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women of all ethnicities. Every 37 seconds, someone in the United States dies of cardiovascular disease. Without access to physical activity in schools, that person could be any of these underserved children in the future.

Kids need daily exercise, or else they are at a higher risk of serious diseases. Additionally, a lack of physical activity can impact mental health and performance in school.

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is steadily on the rise annually. According to the CDC, the number of obese young people in the United States has more than tripled since the 1980s. The CDC’s data from 2015-2016 found that 1 in 5 children aged 6 to 19 is obese. So what exactly are budget cuts saving government agencies? In essence, nothing.

Each year in the United States, $147 billion is spent on obesity-related healthcare costs. So while the impacts of physical education budget cuts might not be immediately apparent, it can lead to incredibly costly expenditures for public and private medical facilities in the long run. Childhood obesity has been attributed to several other long-term complications like:

  • High cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Impaired glucose tolerances or insulin resistance
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Joint and musculoskeletal problems
  • Liver disease
  • Acid reflux
  • Gallbladder issues
  • Depression and other mental health issues
  • Type 2 diabetes

By cutting off funding for programs that promote a healthy lifestyle, children are exponentially more likely to be at risk for childhood obesity and obesity-related illnesses.

Type 2 Diabetes

Because of the obesity epidemic, rates of Type 2 diabetes are rising at an alarmingly fast in children. Diabetes can lead to a plethora of severe health issues and, ultimately, death. Some of the complications and ailments brought on by Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Cataracts
  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage leading to amputation
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Clogged veins and arteries
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

While diabetes is a manageable disease, there is still no guarantee of the risks and outcomes presented later.

Mental Health

The second leading cause of death in young people ages 10 to 24 is suicide. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are an increasingly concerning part of the health epidemic faced by America’s children today.

Boston Children’s Hospital estimates that nearly one of every eight children between the ages of 6 and 12 has suicidal thoughts. The fact that exercise can minimize the risks of depression and suicide in children and young adults is widely accepted. During physical exertion, our brains let out endorphins, which release the energy to keep us feeling good. Without regular exercise, children’s bodies and minds can suffer severely.

Depression also arises prominently in obese or overweight children, especially if they are teased or bullied. This can result in slipping grades and anger issues, furthering the cycle of depression.

What Kids Are Really Losing Out On

When kids don’t receive the recommended amount of daily exercise, their overall physical health and well-being are negatively impacted. Regular exercise promotes healthy lifestyle habits that continue into adulthood.

School health programs teach kids the value of nutrition and taking care of your body. Physical Education promotes increased endurance and flexibility, fine-tuned motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and strengthens muscles and bones. It also improves communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills that are reflected in the classroom.

Lack of physical fitness leads to the ailments contributing to the ongoing health epidemic in our country. Childhood obesity leads to further health problems down the road and puts children at a higher risk of depression and suicide.

By cutting off funding to Physical Education programs in the United States, federal and state government agencies are directly contributing to the ongoing health epidemic in the country. Pennies can be pinched now, but lives can’t be saved later. Physical health should be prioritized in school systems before this epidemic becomes irreversible.

About The Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Learning

We may not be able to gather in groups right now, but we can make the best of a difficult situation by planning for the day when we can resume our regular activities. While we have this time outside of the usual routine, we can use it to learn new ideas that will come in handy later. As the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. We can use this time to our advantage, so we return even stronger and better prepared.

Making Lemonade

This is an excellent time to practice what you teach. It’s easy to fall into a lull and become inactive without our routines to keep us going, so you may want to take time and reflect on this process to help relate to children who feel similarly. Children who have been without regular exercise for some time may resist movement that pushes them out of their “lull,” their comfort zone. How do you inspire someone to move more when they are resistant or in the habit of staying comfortable? How do you motivate yourself to get up and keep going?

When we’re in the middle of our daily routine, it’s hard to stop and think about these questions. With the slower pace we find ourselves in today, it can be helpful to be reflective and consider new ways to do things. What has worked in the past? What are you looking forward to trying out?

It is vital to keep going, to keep moving. The more we move, the more energy we create, which allows us to be productive. When we move our bodies, the extra blood flow to our brains and the work our muscles do gives us a boost, and we can get more done. Overall, we feel better and more motivated. Our students do, too.

Activity Improves Learning

This motivational boost from exercise and fitness makes movement a crucial part of the learning process. With regular movement, children are energized to face the day. Exercise affects a child’s body by influencing sharper thinking and higher frustration tolerances for challenging work. Their bodies are better equipped to manage the stress of learning.

In addition to the effects on their body, exercise makes it easier for children to concentrate. Higher levels of brain chemicals released during exercise improve the brain’s ability to retain information. Memory is improved, and new information is absorbed faster.

As retention is a significant performance indicator for academic success, the ability for exercise to help students absorb and apply knowledge better makes it a vital component to students’ academic progress. If kids’ brains experience activity and perform better in school, then we must create more movement opportunities to help them develop.

The Value Of Physical Activity

For those children without options to move or ways to be active, we need to create opportunities or provide access. The more we expose kids to physical activity, the more they will stay engaged, ideally seeking exercise activities on their own. As they engage in movement activities, kids will begin to understand their bodies and movements, further developing their awareness of their bodies.

Through kinesthetics, the study of body motion, and one’s own ability to move, children can begin to develop this awareness. Classes like Physical Education or after school programs engaging in physical activities are good ways to build children’s perception of their bodies and how they move.

The goal of developing awareness is to give children an appreciation for their ability to move as well as the importance of exercising. When children learn about the way their bodies react to movement, they will be more likely to engage in physical activity on their own.

For children who don’t readily exercise or have not been exposed to the fundamentals of movement and exercise, they don’t develop the concept of movement in quite the same way. For all children, it is more important than ever to include kinesthetics into their curricula so that they can learn the value of movement and how they can be active.

Building Kinesthetics Programs

Creating programs that reach kids and help them develop their physical ability requires engagement and variety so that all children can participate and gain these essential skills. Program plans can build confidence and foster a love for exercise by focusing on skill development and fun activities.

As you plan, remember that the objective is to introduce movement, build body awareness, and scaffold to more advanced skills over time. Break down broad concepts into smaller parts that can become games. Repetition builds muscle memory, so look for ways to repeat the skills but with new techniques; think, “same rules, different game.”

As children interact more with movement, they can begin to experience the positive effects of exercise. They learn better. This is the higher purpose of kinesthetics. While life is interrupted in this way, it can be challenging to focus on the future when the present is so uncertain. However, there is hope to be found in plans for the future, so use this time to look ahead. What can you build when everyone comes back together?

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

How Exercise Affects Mental Health

Our bodies really are a machine; an amazing and organized system that works hard to keep us going. Every function of our circulatory, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and other systems work in conjunction, relying on each other to create the incredible result that is the body.

Lifting that spoon of cereal to your mouth takes a host of functions that interact and coordinate to make it possible to eat. Remove one, and suddenly, cereal falls off the spoon or never even leaves the bowl. Everything must work together and function well.

So, we care for our bodies, and we exercise to keep the systems healthy. And, the sooner we start, the better the body develops into a healthier machine. That means starting fitness young is key.

Machine Care Instructions

If our bodies are a machine, then the heart is the engine and the brain is the power switch. Both are vital, but brain functions pre-empt the heart. While we need to stay active so our heart can run the systems relying on it, the brain is the on/off switch that keeps it going.

The brain not only guides our actions and behaviors but directs our body to perform every function, including the heart. It’s the onboard computer system that makes everything work together. For children, brain function is vital to development, and anything that affects a developing brain must receive due attention.

So, while much of fitness focuses on the physical body and heart health, this focus should not eclipse the importance the role fitness has on children’s mental health. There are major ways that exercise improves children’s abilities to think and feel, which is why this is such a vital and significant effect.

  1. Endorphins. There are powerful brain chemicals at work that stimulate nerves and flood our brain cells to get us going. These chemicals, endorphins, are responsible for moods and a general sense of being. They are powerful because the right amounts can escalate our energy so that we feel amped up and excited about life, or the opposite – drained of energy and feeling blue, dejected, or depressed. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins that keep us feeling good and give the positive energy responsible for our motivation and productivity.
  2. Hormones. Another powerful mix of chemicals in our body, hormones are mighty influencers on our physical and emotional wellbeing. From initiating to maintaining growth and maturity of the body, hormones are fascinating forces that benefit from exercise. Fitness keeps hormone levels in balance and prevents factors such as weight gain and restricted blood flow that can affect the release of hormone amounts.
  3. Oxygen. We take our ability to breathe for granted because it’s regulated by our autonomic nervous system so that we don’t have to think to do it—it just gets done, all the time, automatically. However, this is a key and vital function because it provides and distributes oxygen to our bodies. Exercise affects this delivery system by bringing in more oxygen, thereby sending out more. In this way, our brain receives big oxygen boosts during activity and functions at an even higher capacity. The more oxygen received, the better the brain works.

It’s a Balancing Act

With all the brain chemistry and systems operating in balance, kids’ brainpower performs at optimal levels. They are their best and brightest versions of themselves with proper amounts of every chemical swirling around as it should, in addition to the right quantities of vitamins and nutrients working hard as well.

Regular exercise affects these balances and levels, creating ideal amounts with which to regulate the body. True health means the body, as well as the mind, is functioning well.

Conversely, a lack of exercise can adversely affect children’s well-being. From bad moods to serious medical conditions like mood disorders, depression, or diabetes, the absence of exercise can exacerbate childhood illnesses or states of mind. Feeling negative can be a result of low hormone levels, a sluggish endocrine system, or the inability to process a high caloric intake of sugar or fat.

And, it can become a vicious cycle; feeling bad may lead to worse eating habits, weight gain, or activity avoidance, further worsening the problems. In this way, a lack of exercise and fitness puts children at risk for mental health problems that could become potentially life-threating.

While exercise is not a magic bullet that makes problems go away, it certainly contributes to better health and overall well-being in children. When children feel a physical sense of strength and fitness at a young age, they are more likely to maintain a strong mental capacity that is cognitively and emotionally balanced, making it possible for them to be their best selves, in mind and body.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

20 Hard Facts About Childhood Fitness

As children engage in activities that get them moving, there are significant side effects that participating has on their lives. From better health overall to long-term benefits into adulthood, childhood fitness has some great byproducts beyond just fun.

Fun should be a main driving factor in getting children to participate in physical activity. Having fun with fitness continues to drive motivation for children. However, the following are 20 hard facts about the benefits of incorporating fitness into the lives of youths:

  1. Development. It is better for bones and muscles throughout the body to get active early. The musculoskeletal system benefits from regular and varied activity.
  2. Attitude. When children feel good about themselves, this improves their outlook on life, opening them up to discover and maximize their potential. 
  3. Growth. Children who get active early are more likely to stay active throughout their lives.
  4. Emotional Development. Participating in group exercise gives children the chance to learn healthy coping skills to manage stress.
  5. Maturity. Children who participate in activities are more likely to have a sense of self as part of something bigger, rather than a more self-centric view.
  6. Leadership. Getting active gives children experience leading group activities or making choices that affect others.
  7. Confidence. When children learn new skills, they gain more self-respect and feel more confident.
  8. Health. Active children tend to retain their healthy habits and emerge into adulthood in better overall condition.
  9. Diet. The ability for children to connect healthy eating with activity early in life will sustain them as they understand the importance of making good food choices throughout their lives.
  10. Cognition. Childhood fitness improves kids’ ability to think and learn.
  11. Movement. Fitness counteracts modern sedentary lifestyles and provides an opportunity to move as well as instill a desire to be active.
  12. Strength. Getting fit as a child contributes to feeling strong enough to manage the changes and stress of life as well as actual strength to withstand the physical demands of a full life.
  13. Heart. Activity in childhood leads to better heart health as an adult.
  14. Success. The more fitness children achieve, the more likely they are to seek out other achievements, engaging with life and striving for success.
  15. Participation. When children are active, they gain skills that can lead to membership of a team or club.
  16. Wellness. Children that engage in physical activity will be more likely to protect their bodies than harm themselves through unhealthy choices such as substance abuse.
  17. Motivation. The effort to reach fitness goals will extend to other aspects of life and make it more possible to accomplish goals overall.
  18. Knowledge. As children participate in fitness, they gain knowledge about the way the body works and the requirements for living a healthy lifestyle.
  19. Body Image. Through fitness, children develop a realistic and accurate understanding of a healthy body so that they are less susceptible to disorders or negative body image.
  20. Power. Children that engage in fitness are more capable and self-reliant, and as a result, feel empowered.

Any one of these would be reason alone to get kids active but imagine the collective advantages that come from all twenty working together. Children will be healthier and stronger, both physically and mentally, for their childhood as well as adulthood. 

Imagine The Possibilities 

The healthier we grow as a society, the more we can develop culturally and individually. It’s a benefit to the world we live in when everyone has better health. 

The financial costs alone for managing poor health are astronomical, not to mention the tragic loss of lives from preventable diseases or emotional suffering on relationships from the strain of caregiving. All these detract from our quality of life. 

As society finds more reasons to be sedentary, from our workplace functions that require sitting at a computer to our advances in technology that make it less necessary to budge from the couch (order dinner, groceries, and clothes, all online!), it’s even more important to get moving early and often. Small movements grow larger over time as fitness transforms body strength and allows more opportunities to handle greater exercise.

While a simple game of catch seems like a small gesture, maybe meant to occupy a child’s attention, the movement does more good than just keeping them busy and having fun for a bit; it has a greater impact on the wellbeing of that child and their place in the world. The simple movements like that game of catch with a ball transform into bigger opportunities to move, like group sports or activities centered on ball play.

The facts of the matter are clear:  fitness improves the quality of life, and it’s hard for anyone to argue against that. The sooner we accept our ability to improve life through movement and activity, the better we will feel in life.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

Guide to Healthy and Active Students

Students today experience unparalleled pressure compared to previous generations. The stakes are higher for education and college entrances, a college degree likely won’t be enough preparation for a career, and technology has increased speed and decreased privacy which can be for good but also the bad.

Kids today are under a microscope, held to high standards, and not only expected to outperform their peers but also their past performance. Even kindergarten, when school is supposed to be sweet and fun, has picked up its game. Now, full-day kindergarten combined with much more stringent standards for math, writing, and reading has created a new, more challenging experience.

It all trickles down from the competition for jobs experienced at the end of their academic careers, but that means kids these days push up-hill against academic and life pressures from the very start of school until the finish. It’s hard and arduous, and kids need help. How can we keep students healthy and active so that they succeed in life?

Establish Positive Coping Mechanism

Coping skills for stress are crucial for a successful academic career, but too many children fall into using unhealthy methods. From overeating convenience foods and processed snacks to absorbing themselves in sedentary worlds of too much screen time, kids have options to soothe away the stress that are easy, but often unhealthy.

Children need to recognize the connection between their success and their health. When we choose to exert ourselves and exercise, we create added benefits beyond just weight loss. People who move are more likely to cope with stress better. They will feel stronger because realistically, they are stronger at the biological level, and that will impact their brain. There is a highly identifiable connection between an active lifestyle and improved cognition.

Create The Opportunity To Move

For this generation of children who experience more confined and structured play, they may need to seek out an activity. They may not gravitate to sports or exercise on their own, so it’s best to build in movement and activity within their lifestyle.

For these children, they will benefit from learning skills and ways to be active that they can apply throughout their lives. Instead of choosing a sport to master, children today can learn the fundamental skills required to be active. By breaking down sports into skills, we can provide opportunities to gain the foundation for movement that equip this generation to find and participate in activities throughout life.

Offer Fun And Engaging Options

When kids enjoy themselves while being active, they are more likely to return to the same activity or springboard to another one. The feeling of accomplishment from participating will motivate and inspire more of the same behavior. As they grow, this sense of enjoyment and accomplishment from exercising will grow, too, so it’s essential to instill the joy of exercise as early as possible rather than coerce kids to move.

No one wants to feel forced into exercise or activity. If kids do feel this way, then they usually abandon the project or task as soon as they feel frustrated or unmotivated. The best way to engage children in an activity is to make it fun so that they feel enjoyment. The overarching goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle that inspires children to seek out exercise and movement. Making the development of skills into a fun experience ultimately helps foster the established goal.

Focus Attention Away From Screens

You can get your students to fall in love with the idea and actuality of activity. It requires adults who inspire, motivate, and demonstrate a passion for exercise in such a way that kids see the movement as fun, not fearsome. Children are afraid to fail, and too many children who fear failure will avoid anything that feels too risky. When we break down barriers and create safe places to explore movement, then children will respond.

It’s tough today to break kids out of their comfort zones, primarily the screens that occupy them. Screen time offers safety; when they’re watching television or playing a video game, no one witnesses any failures. We are tasked with convincing these children to learn new skills and take risks in ways that rival the security of a screen.

Adults must provide a level playing field, accessible games, cooperative environments, and consistent reassurance. Having this responsibility can feel like a tall task and may be overwhelming. What can compete against the screens?

Providing programs that exist to build skills using play can break the dependence on screens and create healthy and active students. From the youngest to the oldest child, all children enjoy playing. When you layer in skill development with just enough challenge to keep kids’ interest without intimidating them and provide a supportive environment in which to enjoy movement, then kids finally have a reason to put down their screens.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

Tips And Tricks To Make Exercise Fun For Kids

There is nothing like the feelings of elation and accomplishment after exercising, but too many people never get there because they never get started in the first place. If exercising is daunting, then often, it gets avoided.

When kids fall into this category and avoid exercise, then you may need to break through resistance and find ways to overcome obstacles. How do you reach these kids so that they experience the joy and benefits of exercise?

Make it fun.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Made famous by a movie, this line is nevertheless true. Build a fun exercise program, and children will participate. Exercise can be hard for kids, from learning new moves to feeling sore muscles, and children may be difficult to convince that this discomfort is worth it.

Rather than try to prove otherwise, show them another way to view exercise. Instead of pushing kids to get active, put together programs with cooperative games in a supportive environment led by an enthusiastic and positive adult role model.

Make it fun, and kids will come.

Making Exercise Fun

Kids love to have fun, and it’s part of the joy of being children. So, you want to find ways to make exercise fun to engage them and break down any barriers to exercise.

 

  1. Be Fun. Most children will respond in kind to an adult, so be conscious of the tone you set. Develop a persona that is approachable, non-judgmental, and lighthearted. Consider your tone of voice when you explain rules or must provide redirection and shoot for one that is upbeat and high-energy. Demonstrate enjoyment for the activity with your body language and facial expressions.
  2. Have Fun. Role model enthusiasm for exercise. The children are watching you explain and lead the exercise, so let them see you having fun with it. Enthusiasm is contagious, and your ability to be playful, laugh, and love what you’re doing will show through and inspire them.
  3. Be Empathetic. Like anyone, children respond better to empathy, particularly when it comes to feeling uncomfortable. Worse, they may compare themselves to your ability level and feel ashamed. Break down any barriers to exercise by letting all participants know that you understand their personal goals differ and that you don’t expect perfection from the start. You can also level the playing field by acknowledging that anything is hard at first when it’s new, but as time goes on, things can get easier. Too often, the struggle to breathe and feel muscle strain prohibits people from pursuing exercise, and they give up before the benefits arrive. Reassure children that result come slowly and not overnight.
  4. Provide Motivation. Because results from exercise are slow to appear, it will take constant reminders that the current work will pay off in the future. Children are so invested in the present that it’s hard for them to see long-term or understand a future outcome. Keep their eyes on the prize with regular reminders that they are working towards a goal and show them their progress as often as possible.
  5. Celebrate Small. Keep your eyes open for the small victories and inflate them with praise. If you spot improvement, even in the tiniest way during the activity, take a minute to consult with the child and share your observation. Be cautious that while some children will love the attention of public praise, others are more sensitive and require quieter recognition.
  6. Create Games. Most kids like a challenge and nothing inspires a young child more than the invitation to race! So, play on their youthful exuberance and build in small challenges. Find ways to incorporate exercise into fun games. Avoid games that penalize like individually timed events or breaking into opposing teams, but think more cooperative activities like working together to pass the ball across the gym, relay races as a group to beat a pre-set time, or letting each kid take the lead and rotate until all have had a chance to be a group captain throughout a game.
  7. Set Expectations. It may seem basic, but when you tell the kids your expectations, then you can rule out any negative behaviors with a simple reminder of the rules. Early, tell the group that no one gets left out, everyone participates, and all of them must be supportive. Encourage positive comments to one another, reward team behavior, and spotlight leadership when you see it. Set an environment that is positive, and kids will feel safe and try new activities.

Encourage Yourself, Too

Be aware that there is no magic key; nothing works every time on every kid! Stay flexible and reflective, learning from each experience, and tweaking your plans if necessary.

Remember, the real key is to keep trying.

 

 

 

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

How Group Exercise Benefits Students (Secrets to Success)

Exercise takes many forms, but for students, the best option is a group exercise. There is no argument against solo activities and lone forms of exercise, like weightlifting or exercise machines, for contributing to health, but they lack an important ingredient for youths: external motivation and affirmation.

For students, there are often internal struggles to feel validated or good about themselves. Any activity that gives them more self-respect is a huge plus. When students participate in group exercise, they gain more of the building blocks for self-esteem. 

Classes or teams in which students exercise together create significant benefits for students’ social, emotional, and physical needs. The group exercise is more likely to push them further than they would imagine possible, allow them to feel a greater sense of purpose, and further develop their potential.

Why Group Exercise 

Watching another person accomplish the same activity that you’re doing is motivating if you fall behind or affirming if you are keeping up. Exercising in a group provides instant feedback that keeps you engaged and focused.

When a group of people exercises together, it forms a community in which each individual shares the same goal: to achieve the activity. How and the ways in which each accomplishes the goal varies, but those variations are the important aspects of group exercise because they set examples others can learn from.

Effects Of Group Exercise

Exercising in a group helps students believe more in themselves and their abilities. The following are just a few of the key ways that group exercise strengthens self-respect:

A Competitive Edge

Competition gets our blood flowing, meaning we push ourselves harder when we compete. There’s an inherent desire to win driving us during a competition, and it causes us to rev up mentally and amp up physically; we rise to the challenge.

When students exercise in a group, they tap into this inner drive that makes them want to best an opponent. They see a peer excel, and they want that for themselves. There is an inner push to strive harder when they compare their progress to another’s.  

This competitive edge can be healthy when initiated properly. Students work harder because they want to test themselves, push past their boundaries, and achieve more based on a comparison of ability. In a group, students see each other’s skills, understand the possibilities, and strive for this higher benchmark. They put more faith in themselves and their ability.

Source Of Inspiration

There is nothing more contagious than a mood, good or bad. People can spread feelings faster than the flu, and in a group setting, students can benefit from the positive influences of others who feel good during the activity. Just as one bad apple can spoil it for the bunch, the opposite is true; one inspiring, enthusiastic participant can raise the moods of others and bring everyone’s spirits up.

When we reach a low point in our physical ability, whether we’re out of breath or feeling the strain from pushing ourselves, it’s so tempting to let go and give up. However, seeing another’s energy and high-level enthusiasm can inspire us to keep going. Their energy resonates within us, and we feel just as pumped as they do, allowing us to revive and push through.

Students who work together in a group can help one another with flagging spirits or low-energy moments, sharing a communal feeling of achievement so that there is reason to keep going when they are tempted to quit. They develop their potential and learn to believe in themselves.

Sense Of Belonging

In a group physical activity, students learn to work together and negotiate their space, giving them a better understanding of themselves within a bigger picture. Participating in physical activity bonds the participants through shared efforts and a mutual goal. They are in this together!

That feeling of a community against the odds or toward an achievement creates a real sense of purpose and belonging. For students, working in groups gives them a sense of place and membership, key ingredients for self-esteem building. 

The more students feel like they belong to the group, the more they invest and work to stay with the group. They will participate better, care more, and work harder when they feel that the group matters to them—and that they matter to the group. They discover their worth and value themselves.

Benefits Of Group Exercise

Students who exercise in a group are more likely to feel better about themselves and stick with the activity. When they participate with others in an activity, there is a greater sense of accountability to the group and themselves. This accountability is a key building block for self-respect because it helps students appreciate themselves in relation to the group and care about themselves and others.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 on-site and virtual physical activity resource for groups of children of all sizes.  The on-site programs are designed around Skillatsics Activity Kits.  These Activity kits include an innovative technique of play, executed on an oversize mat, where up to 100 children can play at one time.

The virtual programs provide students with an amazing variety of physical activity experiences that consist of 30 days of content lasting 30-40 minutes a day taught by national experts.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

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