Growing Up: Family Fitness for Every Age


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Childhood may seem to move at a faster pace these days, but children don’t. New research from the American Heart Association shows that today’s children are slower and less fit than their parents were: Kids today take about 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their predecessors did 30 years ago, and children’s cardiovascular fitness has dropped 5 percent per decade since 1975. This problem isn’t confined to the U.S., either. According to the World Health Organization, up to 80 percent of the world’s children aren’t getting enough exercise.

You can reverse this troubling trend at home, though. These family fitness tactics for kids of every age will help your brood tackle the New Year with better health, improved energy and more fun.

Ages 2-5

Family Flex

The good news: Toddlers usually get plenty of exercise, says Beverly J. Allen, professor of physical education and recreation at N.C. Central University in Durham. “Children this age are very active and get the exercise they need from running, jumping, climbing, rolling, bending, pulling, pushing and dancing.”

Help preschool-age kids get physical by playing tag together, wrestling and asking kids to put away toys one at a time, or ferry items up and down stairs. Very young kids shouldn’t follow along with grown-up workouts, says Dale Speckman, director and head trainer at Athletic Revolution of Northeast Indianapolis. “Young children simply aren’t ready for high repetition, high intensity workouts like jogging or interval training,” he says. If kids want to work out with you, do some simple exercises with their own body weight like lunges, planks and squats.

Ages 6-12

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

For kids who like sports, the elementary years bring a whirlwind of new opportunities to stay active — from soccer to softball. But less athletic kids may begin to shirk exercise, particularly if they feel inept at sports. Fortunately, competitive sports play isn’t the only way kids can get needed exercise, Allen says. Parents can encourage kids of all stripes — sports lovers and sports avoiders alike — to get enough exercise by establishing a regular family outing, like ice skating, swimming, long outdoor walks, visiting parks and public spaces where kids can be active, and exploring less competitive physical pursuits like biking, skateboarding and gymnastics. Whatever pastimes kids gravitate toward, it’s important for parents to model that physical activity is enjoyable, Allen says. “Make sure kids have access to fun equipment like skates, Frisbees and hula hoops. And remember that physical activity is important for all children, including those with a disability. Your child’s pediatrician can tell you more about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for your child’s ability.”

Ages 13-18

Safe ‘Shred’

Trend-loving teens may hop on the latest fitness bandwagon to attain a “shredded” (teen-speak for well-defined or muscular) physique. But high-intensity workouts like CrossFit and P90x aren’t suited for teenagers, Speckman says. (CrossFit does offer CrossFit Kids, which is appropriate for children.)

“CrossFit utilizes many Olympic-style lifts that are extremely technical and require high levels of joint mobility and stability. These technical lifts take several weeks to teach in order to perform safely and effectively.”

Sport injuries are on the rise in children and teenagers, something experts attribute to early sport specialization and teens with still-growing bodies performing too many repetitions — something CrossFit may encourage. Parents of young fitness enthusiasts should seek trainers that are certified in youth fitness. Even if a trainer has a background in strength or sports training, youth training is vastly different and should be left to a certified professional.

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published health and parenting journalist and mom of three.

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August 2019

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: 24.00

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Experience the vibrant Latin American culture through music, entertainment, arts and food. Enjoy dancing, music, authentic Latino food, kids’ activities and much more. A two-hour outdoor...

Cost: Free

Where:
West Weaver Street
Carrboro, NC  27510


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Hundreds of artisans from across the Southeast, festival foods, demonstrations, a kids' play area and live music highlight the town's signature arts and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27513
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Discover Historic Yates Mill—a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Geocaching is a treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to track down hidden "caches." We will learn how to use traditional GPS units and the Geocaching App (by Groundspeak) and then...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Ages 11 and older with disabilities make spaghetti, meatballs and a salad. Register online. Choose course #1247467.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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These programs are open to students 6–12 years old. Parent/guardians are welcome to stay for the program or drop-off. Preregistration is required. Learn about predator and prey...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #124969.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Unexpected NC is hosting a Mommy Meet-up at SnickerDoodles. This event is for new and experienced moms alike. Kids are more than welcome to attend and make some new friends.    ...

Cost: Free with registration

Where:
SnickerDoodles
3721 Lynn Road
Raleigh, NC
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Sponsor: Unexpected NC
Telephone: 99-717-7298
Contact Name: Morgan Price
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Explore the ways you can plan ahead for the heat and care for yourself while outdoors on hot days. For ages 6 and up (adult accompaniment is required for all children); FREE. Registration is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

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Plus-Plus is one shape with endless possibility. Younger kids can build 2-D mosaics and older kids can create 3-D masterpieces. Come into Learning Express Falls Pointe for an instructional...

Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Read the story by Laura Numeroff and make brownies. Register online. Choose course #124737.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

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Listen to a story about Johnny Appleseed, the legendary character who's based on John Chapman, the American frontier nurseryman who planted apple trees in many states. Play the game of fruit...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Families take part in an unconventional family adventure race on a muddy obstacle course. Spectators may watch families compete. Parking is $5/car.

Cost: $30-$40/person for race

Where:
Hill Ridge Farms
703 Tarboro Rd.
Youngsville, NC  27596
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Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Celebrate African-American culture and history with an art gallery walk, vendors, kids' activities, food and more. See website for hours.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville Street
, NC  27601
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
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Enjoy a charity radio controlled model flying event and fundraiser benefiting Meg's Smile Foundation. See all sizes/types of electric radio controlled aircraft and watch a drone...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sugg Farm at Bass Lake Park
2401 Grigsby Avenue
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Holly Springs Skyhawks RC Group
Telephone: 919-270-8467
Contact Name: Doug LeRoy
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