As much as we emphasize physical activity and play for children as they grow, not much has been mentioned about the benefits and importance of cross training to keep your kids healthy, safe, and fit. Cross training is not only FUN for your child, but can become a family activity as well. This form of training is a good way to raise your child’s heart rate, strengthen their lungs, while improving muscle function and endurance.
What’s cross training?
So what exactly is cross training, you may ask? Cross training is a technique that incorporates different types of exercises to provide variation while training for sports. Incorporating variations in exercise routines enhances new skills while training the body in different intensities, movement patterns, and impacts on the body. It’s also a good way to reduce the risk of repetitive injury that could occur when playing only one sport. Some examples of cross training are:
* Walking or hiking
* Jogging or running
* In-line skating
* Exercising on a stair-climber/elliptical machine
* Body weight strength training/resistive band exercises
You can also get creative and turn your neighborhood playground into an obstacle course with a few cones.
Why is it important?
Recently pediatricians and sports researchers have been taking a closer look at the practice of kids specializing in one sport at a young age. According to the journal of Pediatric Exercise Science, “sport specialization is characterized by year-round training in a single sport at the exclusion of other sport or non-sport activities.” There is concern that if a child specializes before they reach high school age, they could experience overuse injuries (dependent on age, competitive level, growth rate and pubertal maturation), psychological stress, and possible burnout. With cross training, you help to prevent burnout and keep the risk of injury low.
How long should a cross training session last?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in order to achieve a good training response, athletes should be active at least 20-60 minutes per day, 3-5 times per week (depending on your child’s age). Even starting at 10 minutes per day can help improve your child’s fitness level, slowly adding more time as their endurance improves. Be sure to increase the amount of activity gradually to prevent overuse injuries.
Remember to Alternate
Alternate the types of impact activities, as well as the area of body your child is using (arms vs. legs) while exercising. For example, if your child is doing a lot of pitching or throwing one day, encourage them to change it up the next day by riding a bike or running. Most importantly, cross training should be a FUN experience for your child, encouraging a healthy lifestyle that will stay with them into their adulthood.
Kelsie Ganshert is a pediatric doctor of physical therapist at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion. Her passion is working with young athletes with both upper extremity and lower extremity injuries and getting them back to their sports safely and efficiently.