Health fitness professionals, health care practitioners, and students are gathered this week at ACSM's 20th annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition - taking place March 29-April 1 in Orlando. Follow all the action online by looking for the hashtag #ACSMSummit16, or learn more about educational & career opportunities at acsmsummit.org.
Children need to accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day as part of free play, active transportation and planned exercise. In addition to enhancing muscle strength and motor skills, regular participation in active games and recreational activities provide an opportunity for boys and girls to have fun, make friends and learn something new. Yet over the past few years, I have noticed that a growing number of modern day youth are ill-prepared for the demands of free play and sport.
Low levels of muscular strength and poor motor skills limit their ability to participate in games and activities with energy, interest and vigor. Developmentally appropriate interventions are needed to address these neuromuscular limitations early in life before they become more difficult to "fix" later in life.
Unlike other modes of exercise, balloons slow down every movement to a controllable level and provide an opportunity for all children to learn new movements and experience success. Balloons are inexpensive, colorful and tend to spark a natural desire to move and play. When children are able to accomplish basic movements, they can progress to more challenging activities such as alternating knee taps that require balance, coordination and a sense of rhythm. Children can perform balloon exercises alone or in small groups to enhance their movement efficiency and social cooperation. Youth fitness specialists should ensure the exercise area is free of any potential hazards and should check for latex allergies. In our youth programs, we use durable punch balloons blown up to the size of a basketball.
Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D., FACSM, is a Professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey where his research interests focus on pediatric exercise science, resistance training and preventive medicine.