Family Fitness Across the Generations (cont.)

The equation is simple: Kids love water, and water workouts are easy on weary adult joints. That adds up to an activity that's suitable for all ages.

"The water provides something for everyone," says Julie See, president of the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA).

One simple activity that a child and an adult can do together is water walking in the shallow end of the pool, See says. And since water is 12 times more resistant than air, this can provide quite a workout.

"Vary the style of walking -- forward, backward, lateral travel -- to utilize all the major muscles for a balanced workout," she says.

Pool toys are also great for playing games with the kids. Pick up rings from the bottom of the pool, or play basketball with a floating hoop, See suggests. Have a herd of foam "noodles?" Climb aboard your buoyant steeds and race to the end of the pool.

If your clan includes mostly adults, try getting on your bike and riding -- in the water. Some pools offer water spinning classes on "hydroriders," while others give pool-based classes in kickboxing, yoga, Pilates, and strength training (using foam dumbbells).

"I've seen a new generation in the pool" since gyms started offering things like water kickboxing, says Mark Grevelding, a continuing education provider with the AEA. "Boomers are aging, so aquatic workouts will become the hottest fitness trend."

Strength Training: The Missing Component?

The experts agree: strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program.

For adults, it can increase fat-burning muscle and help improve bone health. For older adults, the benefits can be even greater. It not only boosts muscle strength, but it also improves balance, coordination, mobility, and may reduce arthritis symptoms, according to the CDC.

Would it surprise you to learn that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that strength training is a healthy and fun fitness option for kids? (Keep in mind that healthy strength training is about getting sensibly stronger, not power lifting).

When children are well-supervised and use proper technique, strength training can help them increase endurance, improve heart and lung function, build stronger bones, and lower cholesterol levels.

So when is a child ready to learn strength training? It depends on the child, experts say.

But if a child is old enough to take part in organized sports at age 7 or 8, he or she is probably mature enough for strength training, Avery Faigenbaum, EdD, FACSM, CSCS, writes in an article on the American Fitness Professionals and Associates web site. Faigenbaum is an associate professor of exercise Science at The College of New Jersey.

To keep strength training with kids fun and safe, follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Have the child see a pediatrician before starting a strength-training program.
  • For maximum health benefits, make sure the child gets aerobic exercise as well.
  • All strength-training workouts should include both a warm-up and cool-down.
  • Children should start training with no weights. Once they learn the exercise, weight can be added a little at a time.
  • Before increasing weight or resistance, the child should be able to do 8-15 repetitions of the exercise with good form.
  • A good general strengthening program involves all major muscle groups and the complete range of motion.
  • If a child shows any sign of injury of illness from strength training, have him or her evaluated before continuing the exercise.

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