Exercise and fitness in children enhances physical strength, improves mental development, supports sleep, and positively influences self-confidence and self-esteem.

By: Sarah Ferguson, CPT, Owner Urban Fitness Canada

As a Personal Trainer, my entire life revolves around wellness, exercise and fitness. I wake up excited to exercise and help others reach their goals. Anyone else with me? It’s no surprise that the majority of people don’t share a love for fitness. They know it’s good for them, but they don’t like to exercise. My passion is to make people love fitness, whether its group classes, 1:1 training or doing jumping jacks in their living room!  In addition to working with adults, I try really hard to make sure that my kids are exposed to all areas of fitness and sports. If they want to try push ups or planks, I am 100 per cent supportive and encourage them to try anything, even if it’s hard. Habits learned in childhood have a greater success of continuing later in life.   

Do you know that children require a minimum of one hour of physical activity per day to help with proper growth and development? This seems like a reasonable goal, considering kids have school recess, gym classes and most attend extracurricular sports activities. The reality is – most kids don’t meet the one hour minimum of physical activity per day. How is this possible when kids seem like they never stop moving? Exercise and fitness in children enhances physical strength, improves mental development, supports sleep, and positively influences self-confidence and self-esteem.

As a mom of three kids under the age of 7, I am always finding creative ways to keep them moving for their sanity and my own! They make their own obstacle courses, bike and ride scooters and they’ll even join me for a circuit workout in the gym.  I decided that I needed to share my love of fitness with others and try and encourage parents to get their kids excited about fitness. I knew that my kids weren’t getting enough physical activity at school – limited gym availability, winter indoor recesses and the overall lack of extracurricular activities. The solution seemed easy – find a way to get the kids moving throughout the school day, above and beyond what they’re already doing. I wanted to bring my passion for fitness into the schools. This was the start of my Girl Power program – a fitness, nutrition and wellness program for girls in Grades 3-5. I started the focus with girls because I feel that exercise and fitness doesn’t always come easy to girls. If you’re not a dancer or gymnast and you don’t play hockey, there aren’t a lot of other options for competitive sports and activities. Boys typically will join a pick up soccer game at recess, or chase their buddies around the school yard, but girls tend to hang out in groups and don’t get involved in games and sports in the same way at school.

I started Girl Power first in my own child’s school. It exceeded my expectations with over 30 girls enrolling in the first session! The program has continued to grow through word of mouth and now runs in several other schools. Girl Power runs during lunchtime or Nutrition Break for 6 weeks and introduces girls to all types of fitness – cross fit, yoga, Pilates, group exercises and more! This program focuses on building physical strength and self confidence in a safe and supportive environment. There is always a focus on nutrition and self image and wellness. My goal is to bring this program to other school boards to expose as many girls as possible to fitness, nutrition and wellness. Girl Power has been so well received, that I’ve just launched a new program called, We Are Athletes – a co-ed fitness program for kids in grades 2-4. We Are Athletes is for kids that enjoy sports and fitness and want to push themselves to be better, and learn more!

Why go the school route?

So many people have asked me this. In my experience, children have the most energy early in the day (even though my kids seem to have plenty of energy right before bedtime)! It’s great to be able to offer children an extra 45 minutes of physical activity throughout the day, especially during the winter months. Parents love that these programs operate during the school day; it’s one less program to try in fit in after school, evenings or on weekends. The schools are on board because fitness and physical activity align with their mission to bring awareness to mental health and continue to educate kids on nutrition and wellness. The kids enjoy the programs and leave the classes excited, motivated and energized – and hopefully set them up to be more focused academically during the rest of the day. The core of these programs is fun and that’s what I want the kids to associate fitness with!

If you’re looking to bring these programs to your school, contact Sarah, at urbanfitnesscanada@gmail.com or via Instagram at @urbanfitnesscanada

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