Hop, skip and jump your way to a stronger you

Health and fit­ness ex­pert RUTH LYNCH looks at why our kids are not as strong to­day as they were 20 years ago – and what we can do about it

Loughborough Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE - Ruth Lynch is head of health, fit­ness and com­mu­ni­ties at Life Leisure, lifeleisure.net

C HIL­DREN are be­com­ing phys­i­cally weaker, ac­cord­ing to a recent re­port from the Univer­sity of Es­sex. The team, com­pared the strength and fit­ness of 10-year-olds from Es­sex be­tween 1998 and 2014.

They found children had be­come heav­ier and taller but scored worse in tests in­clud­ing sit-ups and grip strength. The children’s body mass index (BMI) stayed the same be­cause al­though they were heav­ier they are also taller.

It had been ex­pected that be­cause the children had grown big­ger they would have also grown stronger.

So why has the mus­cu­lar strength of our children de­creased in the past twenty years? Ex­perts be­lieve that the drop in the number and length of PE lessons de­liv­ered in schools, safety con­cerns, plus in­creased time spent on so­cial me­dia and on­line are the main rea­sons.

The Gov­ern­ment rec­om­mends that children up to 18 years do 60 min­utes of ac­tiv­ity a day and three of those days should in­clude strength­en­ing ex­er­cises. Adults should be do­ing 150 min­utes of ex­er­cise per week, with two lots of strength­en­ing ex­er­cises.


WHEN we say strength­en­ing ex­er­cises, what does that mean? Many peo­ple will think of pump­ing iron, or work­ing with ridicu­lously heavy weights, but that’s just one type of strength­en­ing ex­er­cise.

A strength­en­ing ex­er­cise is any ex­er­cise that makes your mus­cles work harder than usual, us­ing your body weight or some type of re­sis­tance, like a dumb­bell or weight ma­chine. Strength­en­ing ex­er­cises in­crease and de­velop mus­cles, while help­ing main­tain a healthy weight.

Build­ing mus­cles is im­por­tant for cor­rect de­vel­op­ment in children, help­ing them grow into healthy adults and help­ing pro­tect them against in­jury. As adults age strength con­tin­ues to be im­por­tant, mak­ing ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties eas­ier and keep­ing you ac­tive for longer.

With that in mind, what can we do to im­prove our children’s (and our own) strength?


YOU don’t need any fancy equip­ment to build up your children’s (and your) strength. Lots of ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­er­cises help build strength just us­ing body weight – per­fect for the fam­ily to do to­gether.

Calf raises – from stand­ing, lift up onto your tip­toes, hold and then lower. You can turn this into a game and pre­tend to be bal­leri­nas, su­per­heroes, climbers or fairies – per­fect for do­ing in­doors on a rainy day.

Climb­ing – you don’t have to climb trees or rocks to get a body ben­e­fit (though it’s a fun way to do so), any climb­ing will help work and strengthen up those mus­cles. Climb­ing over small walls, up the stairs, the wrong way up a slide or on play equip­ment all counts. Even climb­ing over the fur­ni­ture, but we’re not go­ing to get in trou­ble by sug­gest­ing that!

Danc­ing – move­ment classes like danc­ing, yoga and mar­tial arts are a great way to move your body and build strength through re­sis­tance. There are lots of classes in schools, gyms, leisure cen­tres and com­mu­nity build­ings. How­ever, you can also gain the same ben­e­fits by danc­ing round the house to your favourite tracks – why not let each fam­ily mem­ber choose their favourite song?

Go ex­plor­ing – hik­ing, walk­ing in the coun­try­side and play­ing step­ping stones across a river are all great ways to build up strength and en­joy the great out­doors to­gether. A fun, fam­ily day out won’t even feel like ex­er­cise. Hand­stands, som­er­saults and cart­wheels – re­mem­ber those sunny days when you’d spend ages see­ing who could do a hand­stand for the long­est time? Why not recre­ate these fun days in the gar­den

or park with your kids and show them how you used to play? Start off against a wall and see how many at­tempts it takes you to do a full one.

Hop about – jump­ing and hopping are great ways to build strength, es­pe­cially in the lower core, which helps main­tain our bal­ance. Why not try tram­polin­ing, skip­ping or hop­scotch? As adults you could try box­er­cise and tram­po­line HIIT classes to get the same ben­e­fits kids do in the play­ground.

House­hold chores – we all know that kids hate help­ing with chores, but they ac­tu­ally help keep them healthy. Sweep­ing, mop­ping and car­ry­ing shop­ping are great ways to build strength and get those mus­cles mov­ing.

Ob­sta­cle course – mov­ing your body in mul­ti­ple ways and us­ing dif­fer­ent mus­cles to bal­ance is a great way to build up your strength. You can ei­ther go to an ob­sta­cle course in your lo­cal park, go to an in­door play cen­tre or set one up from house­hold items in the gar­den (or in­doors if it’s rain­ing). To make it more in­ter­est­ing, why not time each fam­ily mem­ber and see who can do it the fastest?

Swim­ming – pulling your­self through the water of­fers great re­sis­tance for our mus­cles and gives a whole-body work­out. Swim­ming is also a great rainy-day ac­tiv­ity.

Wheel­bar­row walk­ing – one per­son lies on the floor and the other takes hold of their an­kles, the per­son on the floor then lifts them­selves up on their hands and walks for­wards. Why not make it into a wheel­bar­row race? To make it more dif­fi­cult, try wheel bar­row­ing back­wards.

There are lots of easy, fun and imag­i­na­tive ways to help de­velop your children’s mus­cles, with plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for you to join in too. If it’s hard to get the kids mov­ing, why not re­ward them with 15 min­utes of screen time for ev­ery hour of move­ment?

Build­ing strength to im­prove life-long health can be as sim­ple as play­ing some tra­di­tional child­hood games

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