Feature Article - November 2009
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Fit(ness) Designs

Meeting a Growing Need

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Programming potential: With its mission-based call to serve all segments of the community, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City is careful to include activities for their youngest constituents. "We feel kids at age 9, if they fit the exercise equipment, should be allowed to exercise," said Brian Haines, senior director of health and wellness. But it wouldn't be safe to simply turn them loose, "so we have programs where we teach 9-to-12-year-olds how to use the cardio equipment properly, and the weight machines that are appropriate for their age and height," he added. "We teach them about etiquette on the fitness floor and the principles of exercise. Then they can come in and work out with their parents, and if it's not cool to do that, we also have group classes."

Summer is a great time to start a "fit kids" program, he noted. "We do games indoors and out—things that are more about having fun, creative play." Some are designed as ways "to be active and move and exercise without realizing you're exercising," while others are more traditional activities like swimming and tumbling and youth sports.

But even more important than the programming may be the staff facilitating the activities. "Energetic, motivational—it takes a special kind of person to work with that age group," Haines said.

Getting Active

Selected Suggestions from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (see www.health.gov/paguidelines for more details)

Children and Adolescents (aged 6 to 17)

Children and adolescents should do one hour or more of physical activity every day. As part of their daily physical activity, children and adolescents should do vigorous-intensity activity on at least three days per week. They also should do muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity on at least three days per week.

Adults (aged 18 to 64)

Adults should do two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or an hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, preferably spread throughout the week. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days per week.

Adults (aged 65 and older)

Older adults should follow the adult guidelines. If this is not possible due to limiting chronic conditions, older adults should be as physically active as their abilities allow. They should avoid inactivity. Older adults should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling.

For all individuals, some activity is better than none. Physical activity is safe for almost everyone, and the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.