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Helping Children Exercise

Resources for outreach, education and activism.

Children need to exercise more—this is not a news flash. From an increasingly younger age, they are at risk for the consequences of an inactive lifestyle. Many school programs include gym class as infrequently as once or twice a week, if at all. As children get older, more and more of their leisure time is spent in activities involving no physical exertion whatsoever. When it comes to children’s fitness, or lack thereof, the word epidemic is often used. This is why it is important for fitness professionals to take a stand and start helping children exercise.


Refer to these resources for general information on current standards in children’s fitness.

  • First-Ever Physical Activity Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers. The National Association for Sport & Physical Education (NASPE) recommends that infants be encouraged to be physically active from the beginning of life. NASPE warns that confining babies and young children to strollers, playpens, car seats or infant seats for hours at a time may delay physical and cognitive development. The organization offers the first physical activity guidelines specifically designed to meet the developmental needs of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Motor development experts, movement
    specialists, exercise physiologists and medical professionals contributed to the guidelines. For more information, visit www.aahperd.org, the Web site
    of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance.

  • Child Nutrition and Health Campaign. In 1996, the American Dietetic Association launched the Child Nutrition and Health Campaign to address the connection between poor nutrition and performance. One of the most significant findings links breakfast to learning and shows that the estimated 12 percent of students in the United States who skip breakfast may well be missing out on an important key to performance in school. The campaign has sponsored research and published ADA position papers on children and nutrition topics. For the latest information, visit www.eatright.org/pr/child.html.

  • Current Guidelines for Youth Strength Training. In 1998 the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published a statement on youth strength training. Written by Avery Faigenbaum, EdD, and Lyle Micheli, MD, the statement emphasizes proper training guidelines,
    program variation and competent supervision as keys to success.
    According to the statement, “Adult strength training guidelines and
    training philosophies should not
    be imposed on youngsters who are anatomically, physiologically or psychologically less mature.” For a copy of the statement, visit www.acsm.org/pdf/YSTRNGTH.pdf.

Associations and Organizations

Action for Healthy Kids. An offshoot
of the Healthy Schools Summit, this organization offers valuable tools and resources for getting involved in children’s fitness on state and local levels; contact www.actionforhealthykids.org.

American Academy of Pediatrics. This professional organization offers a broad range of information on children’s health, including advice on exercise. For more information, visit www.aap.org.

American Fitness Alliance Youth Fitness Resource Center. This center provides educational, assessment and training resources to help children exercise; contact www.americanfitness.net.

Girls In Training. A nonprofit organization, Girls In Training educates and empowers young girls to make healthy decisions and also teaches them a love for fitness. Programs focus on ways
to build positive body image and self-esteem, proper nutrition, smoking prevention and fitness education; contact www.girlsintraining.org.

Inner-City Games Foundation. Inner-City Games provides opportunities for inner-city youth to participate in sports, educational, cultural and community enrichment programs; contact www.innercitygames.org.

International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. The educational arm of the IFIC, this foundation communicates science-based information on food safety and nutrition. There are many informative articles online, including “Helping Your Overweight Child” and “Moving to Prevent Childhood Obesity”; contact www.ific.org.

Joy of Sports Foundation. This nonprofit, tax-exempt organization uses sports and physical play to help children learn life skills and develop themselves fully in body, mind and spirit; contact www.joyofsports.com.

Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (K.E.E.N.) Foundation. A nonprofit volunteer organization, K.E.E.N. provides free one-on-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities; contact www.keenusa.org.

Melpomene Institute. This pioneering organization teaches parents how to get their children involved in physical activity at the community level; contact (651) 642-1951 or www.melpomene.org.

National School Fitness Foundation. This foundation seeks to improve the overall level of health, wellness and fitness in the nation, particularly among school youth in grades K through 12. Schools that qualify receive free fitness equipment; contact www.fitnessfoundation.org.

P.E.4Life. A national, nonprofit advocacy organization, P.E.4Life serves as the collective voice for promoting quality, daily physical education programs for America’s youth. Its Web site features
a comprehensive community action kit; contact www.pe4life.com.

President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The Council offers publications that focus on children’s fitness. It also runs several motivational kids’ fitness programs, including The Presidential Sports Award (a family fitness award is also available) and the new Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (which gives kids presidential recognition for 60 minutes of activity 5 days a week for 6 weeks); contact www.fitness.gov.

R.E.S.H.A.P.E. America. A national not-for-profit organization, R.E.S.H.A.P.E. America focuses on helping children exercise by reinstating elementary school health and education; contact www.reshape.org.

TV-Turnoff Network. This nonprofit network seeks to promote healthier living by encouraging children and adults to watch less television; contact www.tvturnoff.org.

Web Sites

Children’s National Medical Center. This online center holds Web chats about kids’ nutrition and fitness; contact www.dcchildrens.com.

Fitness and Kids. This site offers fitness articles, equipment, videos and other resources on children; contact www.fitnessandkids.com.

Kellogg Kids Health and Fitness. This Australian site for parents, teachers and kids includes practical tools and activities; contact www.kidshealthandfitness.com.au.

Kidnetic.com. This site focuses on helping children exercise by blending nutrition and physical activity with interactive games and activities; contact www.kidnetic.com.

KidsHealth®. Created by The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media, KidsHealth provides doctor-approved health and fitness information for children of all ages; contact www.kidshealth.org.

Kids Running. Presented by Runner’s World, this site features programs, events, poetry and training information that encourage children to run; contact www.kidsrunning.com.

SHAPEDOWN®. SHAPEDOWN is a weight management program for children and adolescents that involves the whole family. It can be taught by a registered dietitian, a mental health professional, an exercise specialist, a registered nurse or a physician; contact www.shapedown.com.

StrongKid.com. This site provides current research-based information on youth strength training; contact www.strongkid.com.

ToneTeen. An independent site, ToneTeen encourages physical activity and healthy nutrition among teens; contact www.toneteen.com.


A World Fit for Kids. This mentoring program trains teenagers to coach younger children about healthy behavior; contact (888) 821-2181 or www.worldfitforkids.org.

Fit4Play. Fit4Play provides access to cutting-edge fitness programming for children in the Calgary, Alberta, school system. Fit4Play’s programs reach more than 15,000 students per year; contact www.fit4play.com.

GirlSports. This initiative is designed to encourage young girls to participate in sports at the local and national levels; contact your local Girl Scouts chapter, call (800) GSUSA4U or visit www.girlscouts.org.

HeartPower. This program offers kits that teach prekindergarten through eighth-grade children about nutrition and physical activity; contact the American Heart Association at (800) 611-6083 or www.americanheart.org.

M-SPAN. The Middle-School Physical Activity and Nutrition Program works with schools to both help children exercise and lower the fat content in foods served to students; contact
(619) 594-4815.

Presidential Sports Award Program. Sponsored by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, this merit program recognizes youngsters’ participation in physical activity; write to Presidential Sports Award, AAU/Walt Disney World Resorts,
PO Box 10000, Lake Buena Vista,
FL 32830-1000.

Skate-in-School Program. Developed by the National Association of Sport and Physical Education in cooperation with Rollerblade Inc., this program provides safe and affordable inline skating opportunities for children; contact NASPE at (800) 213-7193,
ext. 410, or www.aahperd.org.

SPARK. Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids is a health promotion/intervention controlled trial conducted by researchers at San Diego State University; contact SPARK Physical Education at (800) SPARKPE or (619) 594-8652 or www.foundation.sdsu.edu/projects/spark/.

Start Smart Sports Development Program. Geared to children 3 and older, this program focuses on building fundamental sport skills like throwing, kicking and catching; contact the National Alliance for Youth Sports at (800) 729-2057 or www.nays.org.

Stronger Communities. This incentive program from Bally Total Fitness is designed to encourage family participation in community activities; contact (800) FITNESS to locate the nearest participating Bally Total Fitness Center.

The President’s Challenge. This physical fitness testing program for youth ages 6 through 17 awards recognition for five components of physical fitness; contact the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports at www.fitness.gov.


Exercise for Children and Teens. This IDEA Resource Series booklet includes sample class formats for children of all ages, along with techniques to keep kids motivated; contact IDEA member services at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7, or (858) 535-8979, ext 7.

Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. This is the journal of the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; contact (800) 213-7193 or www.aahperd.org.

Promoting Physical Activity: A Guide for Community Action. Developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this guide provides resources for working with children and teens; contact Human Kinetics at (800) 747-4457 or (217) 351-5076.

Promoting Better Health for Young People Through Physical Activity and Sports. This Fall 2000 report from the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education offers strategic advice on how to implement youth-oriented exercise plans; view the full report online at www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/presphysactrpt.


Active Videos. Exercise and dance videos are available for kids of all ages; contact www.activevideo.com.

Collage Video. Choices for kids include cardiovascular exercise, toning and yoga videos; contact www.collagevideo.com.

Jump Inc. Fitness. Fit Kids by Mindy Mylrea covers different components
of kids’ fitness programming; contact www.jumpincfitness.com.

KidSport. IDEA presenter Aileen Sheron has a new kids’ video, “KidSport Super Circuit”; contact www.kidsportbar.com.

SPRI Products. Kids’ videos include “ABC 4 Kidz®: Adjustable Band Conditioning” and “Roll Up a Sweat”; contact www.spriproducts.com.

a kid-friendly Pilates workout using balls
and bands; contact www.stottpilates.com.


Cederquist, C.J. 2002. Helping Your Overweight Child: A Family Guide. Naples, FL: Advance Medical Press.

Cooper, K.H. 1999. Fit Kids! The Complete Shape-Up Program From Birth Through High School. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman.

Mazel, J., Monaco, J.E., & Sobell, S. 1999. Slim
& Fit Kids: Raising Healthy Children in a Fast-Food World.
Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.

Nissenberg, S.K., Bogle, M.L., & Wright, A.C. 1995. Quick Meals for Healthy Kids and Busy Parents: Wholesome Family Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less From Three Leading Child Nutrition Experts. Minneapolis: Chronimed Publishers.

Parizkova, J., & Hills, A.P. 2000. Childhood Obesity: Prevention and Treatment. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Satter, E. 2000. Child of Mine: Feeding With
Love and Good Sense.
Berkeley, CA: Publishers Group West.

Smith, J.C. 1999. Understanding Childhood Obesity. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.

Sothern, M.S., von Almen, T.K., & Schumacher, H. 2001. Trim Kids: The Proven 12-Week Plan That Has Helped Thousands of Children Achieve
a Healthier Weight.
New York: Harper Resource.

Sweet, J.E. 2001. 365 Activities for Fitness, Food and Fun for the Whole Family. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books.

Human Kinetics produces both books and videos on youth fitness; contact www.humankinetics.com.

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