The importance of physical fitness is something to be encouraged at any and all ages. For a 10-year-old, the social aspects of fitness are as important as the physicality. Some gyms have age restrictions, and others offer fitness classes specifically for kids, so check with your local gym to identify the most interesting opportunities.

Can 10 year olds go to the gym? It depends on the gym. Before bringing your child to a gym, do a bit of research to find out any age restrictions. If your gym allows 10 year olds, then there is no reason your child cannot benefit with proper adult guidance and supervision when learning various workout techniques and routines. In that case, it really comes down to how much your child enjoys the experience and opportunity.

Kids are most influenced by modelling their parents’ behavior and mindsets about physical fitness. When I researched the best age a child may benefit from going to a gym for my own family’s fitness goals, I learned a great deal – including the importance of various forms of physical fitness from the youngest ages – including gym activities. But you also need to take into account safety precautions, as improper form when doing gym activities can have detrimental effects, including strains and pulled muscles.

Benefits for Kids Using a Gym

Get creative when introducing your 10 year old to gym activities. When many people think about using a gym, they think about weight training which is not the most appropriate activity for a 10 year old’s growing body. But other activities, such as running on a track, yoga classes, or aerobic classes aimed to kids could be fun on various levels. Even using elliptical or cycling equipment can be fun for kids.

Benefits include:

  • Kids will see others enjoying their time at the gym, which can be a great model of behavior
  • If taking classes aimed to kids, it can be a fun social activity
  • Kids can learn to establish a fitness routine after trying new things and seeing what they most enjoy
  • Your child may feel a sense of accomplishment after overcoming initial challenges, which can help to improve self-esteem
  • Learning about setting and working toward personal goals is an important skill your child can use in many areas of his or her life through adulthood

Keep in mind that if your child has a fun first experience at the gym, this will promote an attitude of wanting more. If the first experience is a drag (from your child’s perspective), you’re more likely looking at an uphill path. So be mindful of nurturing fun as the primary goal for your child’s first-time gym experience.

Remember that unstructured play is as important as structured activities. So even if visiting a gym with your child, set aside and encourage time each week for unstructured physical activities.

Strength Training versus Weight Lifting / Powerlifting

While weight lifting and body building are not beneficial for kids whose young bodies are still developing, strength training is good for them. Light resistance with controlled movements are best. Using their own body’s resistance rather than heavy weights and machines will be helpful to their overall fitness, including helping them to be strong enough to avoid sports-related injuries.

Strength training can be helpful in the following ways:

  • It can help strengthen their bones as well as their muscles
  • Assist in promoting healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Help to keep a healthy body weight maintained
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence
  • Increase your child’s endurance and muscle strength
  • Help to enhance your child’s performance when engaging in other activities, such as running, dance, yoga, and organized sports
  • Develop proper fitness form from a young age that will stay with them as they mature and embrace other fitness activities

Considerations for Kids Using a Gym

While visiting the gym and engaging in using the equipment or attending classes, safety is paramount. Adult supervision, either by a knowledgeable parent, coach, trainer, or gym staff, will help your child to participate in gym activities safely and appropriately for their growing muscles.

Points to consider:

  • Kids are not miniature adults. Their bodies are different, their goals and mindsets are different. Remember that kids will engage in physical activities when it is fun for them, so find ways to keep that goal in perspective.
  • Teach your child safety when trying any gym equipment. Get help from gym staff or a trainer if you need it.
  • Teach your child gym etiquette so that s/he is not in the way of others who are there using the facilities.
  • Supervise your child at all times while at the gym. You may need to make another trip alone to get your own workout in with more focus, but when you’re there with a 10-year-old, supervision is critical to prevent potential injuries and for overall safety (you don’t know who else your child may encounter if you’re in other room or too focused on your own workout to notice whose talking to your child and why).
  • Consider doing the same activities as your child, at least the first few times. You take a turn on a piece of equipment, then s/he takes a turn, etc. Or, walk/run the same track. Or do laps in the same pool. Anything where you can both experience a fun workout while you are engaged together in the activities (while you also provide supervision and modelling how to use equipment).
  • Talk to your child after their first gym experience to learn more about what s/he enjoyed most or struggled with. Refrain from making assumptions. If you think your child enjoyed the experience but then makes excuses about going again, open some dialogue to discover more. The more you understand his or her thoughts about time spent at the gym, the greater chance you have of helping the next experience be more fun. It may be that the equipment was intimidating, or s/he had unrealistic expectations about their abilities as a beginner, or they may have experienced any number of things that made them uncomfortable.  Talking it through can help.
  • Consider allowing your child to bring a friend. You’ll want to check with the friend’s parents to ensure they are okay with their child visiting a gym and comfortable with your supervision. But if your child brings a friend who also has an interest in fitness and learning new activities, it can potentially be more fun for your child. Keep the friend’s personality in mind, though. This idea can backfire if the friend’s attitude turns out to be more of a wet blanket or is too competitive for a gym visit to remain fun for your child.

Other Fitness Activities for 10-year-olds

If the gyms in your local area do not allow kids or do not offer activities and classes for kids, there are many other options worth considering to enhance your child’s physical fitness. For kids, encouraging the fun aspects of exercising will go a long way toward them embracing fitness as a lifestyle.

Consider the personality of your child when discussing options. Some kids prefer solitary activities while others blossom in social settings. Organized sports can teach more than just the importance of being physically fit, as kids will also learn about working as a team, navigating disagreements, being competitive in a friendly way, and more. Yet solitary activities can also teach about setting and surpassing personal goals, mindfulness, dedication, perseverance, and other life lessons that are specific to engaging in more solitary activities.

According to KidsHealth.org, school age kids should not be inactive for more than 2 hours at a time for optimal fitness. Here’s a list of activities, aside from time at the gym, which can encourage a fun attitude toward being more physically active:

Random fun physical activities:

  • Put on some music and dance in the living room (or any room where you can clear a bit of space). Just be silly and have fun with it. Make a game of it. See who can look the silliest with their dance moves and just get moving. Get other family members or friends dancing from time to time, or just encourage your child to get moving to some music on his or her own.
  • Buy a yoga mat and find some online yoga video tutorials for beginners or kids.
  • Get a jump rope or hula hoop, put on some music, and have fun with it.
  • Walk or run. Many local YMCAs, activity centers, and schools have a track which can be appealing. Or if walking or running together, your neighborhood can be just fine for this (though if you don’t have sidewalks or live in a relatively quiet neighborhood in terms of traffic, keep safety in mind). Or find a local walking/running trail. With a little forethought, incorporating a short walk or run each day (or a few times a week) is one of the easiest ways to become more fit if your child finds it enjoyable. If it’s raining, bring an umbrella and walk anyway, or visit an indoor location where you can walk (even a shopping mall can be good for this).
  • Get a group of friends together and play outdoor games like tag, red rover, ghost in the graveyard, or anything that gets kids moving. If you can schedule the small group to get together on a regular basis, it’s beneficial time spent for everyone involved.

Organized activities:

  • Tennis
  • Basketball
  • Lacrosse
  • Golf
  • Football
  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Dance classes
  • Aerobic classes
  • Field or ice hockey
  • Soccer
  • Volleyball
  • Kick boxing
  • Tai Kwon Do classes
  • Karate classes

With organized activities, you’ll need to be mindful of what fits your child’s schedule around school and other activities that may already be in place (drama club, music lessons, etc.)

Many organized activities and sports adhere to a strict schedule, and if your child misses too many practices or games, s/he may not be allowed to continue. So find out the expectations (and ensure you can meet them) before getting your child excited about getting involved.

Solitary activities:

  • Swimming
  • Bike riding
  • Skating
  • Rollerblading
  • Running
  • Walking

With solitary activities, consider your child’s safety. Finding a partner for these activities, even though more solitary in terms of performance, can be more fun socially and safer in many cases than if engaging in running or bike riding alone.

One benefit of solitary activities is that they may be easier to fit into your family’s lifestyle and not dependent on a group or team getting together on a set schedule. It’s also less competitive, so may better suit your child’s personality. Rather than competing against others performances, your child would only be competing against his or her personal best (which can be equally rewarding).

Recommendations for Encouraging Physical Activity for Kids

Depending on your child’s natural level of activity, many school-age kids are not going to become and stay physically active without some encouragement. Creating a family and home environment that promotes physical activity can help in many ways.

Here are some tips to encourage your child to be more active and adopt a habit of staying fit and healthy.

  • Become physically active yourself, if you’re not already. When kids see that you view physical fitness as a high enough priority to stay fit and active yourself, they are far more inclined to do the same.
  • Limit screen time (TV, computer, video games, phones, etc.). Keep enough time available in each day for your child to engage in physical activities beyond gym class or recess at school.
  • Talk about interests with your child to identify some physical activities they think would be fun, and then encourage any of those that may be possible for your schedule and lifestyle. Whether it’s swimming, running, sports, yoga, dancing, golf, tennis, or walking, the opportunities are nearly endless.
  • Plan a family walk every evening after dinner. That’s a great way to connect and talk about the day while getting the blood pumping at the same time.
  • Take advantage of extra time on weekends and get involved together. It doesn’t need to be a serious pursuit to be beneficial. Hit a tennis ball back and forth together, or grab a basketball and find a hoop. Play tag or hide-and-seek. Go to a lake or pool and take a swim or play in the water. Bring a beach ball or some type of water toys (diving sticks, water volley ball, etc.)  Find a nature trail and explore dirt paths. You can make it fun by collecting leaves or rocks along the way, or anything your child may find of interest.
  • When running errands together, park further away and walk. Take the stairs whenever available. Leave extra time whenever possible, and rather than rushing through your errands, encourage a mentality of “taking the long way” and enjoying the walk.
  • Create fun games around being physically active. This can be as simple as running impromptu races with your child, or playing H-O-R-S-E with a basketball.  Encourage some healthy competition – either between you and your child, between siblings, or between friends. When fun and goals come together, it becomes more appealing on a regular basis. Keep it friendly, though, or competition can backfire. When it’s no longer fun (someone getting mad or being a poor sport), it can dampen the enthusiasm of engaging in competitive games again. The idea is to keep it light and fun, and to keep bodies in motion on a regular basis.

laura

Laura Gemme