FITBIT 08/2020: AHA Release Bleak Picture on Childrens Fitness in U.S.

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AHA Release Bleak Picture on Childrens Fitness in U.S.

On July 20, 2020, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a statement: “that nearly 60% of American children do not have healthy cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), a key measure of physical fitness and overall health.” CRF levels not only indicate general and cardiovascular health, but academic and cognitive abilities needed for success.

“Every child would benefit from cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) testing as part of a yearly physical and doing so may identify children who would benefit from lifestyle interventions that can help improve health,” said Raghuveer, a cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri, both in Kansas City.

Healthy cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) leads to better heart and blood vessel health, mental and emotional health, better memory, concentration, focus and academic achievement and many other beneficial factors in children as well as adults.

Unfortunately, there is little emphasis in schools or among medical and health-care providers to execute fitness programs with sufficient frequency, intensity, time, or type to achieve even a minimal physical activity goal.

It is important for all IFPA Certified Personal Trainers and Fitness professionals to understand the reasons for the “Physical Inactivity Pandemic.”

Children today entertain themselves with an entirely new array of electronic devices. They use these devices for entertainment, education, and socialization.

Preceding generations were using physical activity for play and work.

Today, no such requirements exist. Indeed, in many places, physical activity is discouraged, as is the competitions that encouraged preceding generations towards greater personal development and achievement.

The role of the IFPA Certified Personal Trainer and other Fitness Professionals is to recruit, retain, encourage and teach children, adults, and seniors to embrace the healthy fitness lifestyle for their entire life span.

Everyone alive needs to know: You need to move, to live!

The first step toward reversing this “Physical Inactivity Pandemic” is to educate both parent and child on the life-enhancing, life-saving benefits of physical activity.

Once that step is achieved, you will have to find the type (mode) of exercise the child will perform.

Here is an advanced fitness professional tip for you to learn.

When I get asked, “Dr.Bell, what is the best exercise for a __________ (fill in the blank with child, woman, man, senior, etc,.).”

The answer is always the same, regardless of who is asking or who they are asking for.

“The best exercise to perform is the one they LIKE to perform.”

You can prepare detailed exercise prescriptions for all 12 IFPA Components of Fitness, but you are wasting your time if your clients/potential clients will not do them or drop-out after 2 or 3 sessions.

Your best chance of recruiting and retaining clients of any age, condition or need is to find some physical activity they will enjoy doing at a level of frequency, intensity, time, and type that can adhere to.

Once you get them into physical activity, you can continue to educate them on the benefits of developing all 12 IFPA Components of Fitness.

Even better is to provide encouragement to improve their performance in the physical activity they love by educating them on the links between the 12 IFPA Components of Fitness and their performance.

Let’s look at the link between a very popular physical activity and the 12 IFPA Components of Fitness.

You have a new client, a 12-year-old girl who really enjoys playing tennis. During your Phase One of the IFPA Personal Training System: The Client Consult and Assessment, you are asking questions about the strongest and weakest parts of her Tennis Game.

She tells you she is weak at her net game and her serve is not very strong. You now have clues that of her components of fitness, she may be lagging in Strength. You will confirm this when you get to Phase Two: Fitness Testing.

Once confirmed, you talk to her in a positive, motivational dialogue, designed to encourage continued participation and strong motivation to improve her performance with the strength training.

You can expect the typical objections that all IFPA Personal Trainers have heard:

Objection 1: “Children should not lift weights because it will stunt their growth!”

Answer: “ We have seen stunted growth in almost every sport because of acute damage to the epiphyseal plates at the end of the long bones in gymnastics, football, basketball, soccer, tennis, and almost every other sport except one and the only one we do not see episodes of stunted growth is strength training. Strength Training, performed correctly, and I will make sure you do every exercise correctly, will actually increase growth.”

Objection 2: “I don’t want big bulky muscles like those women I see in those muscle magazines!”

Answer: “Those women you see in muscle magazines do not get big, bulky muscles because of strength training, they get big bulky muscles like that because of body building and performance enhancing drugs they use.”

I always kept a copy of the latest Ironman or Muscle Mag around that pictures the top professional bodybuilders and a Fitness Magazine in my office for this purpose. I would open a page to the huge, drug- enhanced bodybuilder and the Fitness Models. I would point at the bodybuilder and then the Fitness Model and say, “This woman does a lot of drugs this one does not, which do you want to look like?”

I would also explain that all top Professional Tennis Players, male and female strength train, they just do not do drugs and you should never do drugs either!

Phase 3: The Exercise Prescription: should be a general strength-conditioning program for a tennis player with a few sport specific exercises.

Frequency: 2-3 Days/Week with at least 1 day of rest between sessions

Intensity: 15 Reps (No sets to failure until 2nd week)

Time: One Set/Exercise for the 1st 3-4 weeks (Circuit Training)

Type: Machines for weeks 1 &/or 2 then progress to less stability Dumbbell (DB) exercises

Phase 4: Program Design:

  • Squats
  • Leg Curls (eventually progress to Single-Leg-Stability Ball Curls)
  • Dumbbell Chest Press
  • Seated Row
  • Overhead Press (DB)
  • Arm Curl (DB)
  • Straight On Pull-Downs (Use Extended Rope: Elbows held bent at 5-10 degrees)
  • Tricep Extension (Standing)
  • Heel Raises
  • Twisting Crunch
  • Wrist Curl
  • Reverse Wrist Curl
  • Giant-Set of External/Internal rotator Cuff Exercises

Phase 5: Exercise Management: You should teach perfect form on every exercise. You are not making a bodybuilder /powerlifter. You want to train for perfect form, so your tennis player never gets injured in the gym and your strength training prevents injuries on the court. Injury Prevention is a primary goal of sports conditioning.

Especially with children, focus on Timing, Breathing and Perfect Form.

On Breathing– Just as you are teaching them to exhale on every Forceful- Eccentric Contraction, you must explain they need to exhale every time they hit a ball on a tennis court. Tennis players can and have ruptured their alveoli when hitting the ball hard during a critical point.

Phase 6: Exercise Physiology- use the time between exercises to teach. Eventually, educate your client on all 12 IFPA Components of fitness:

  1. Strength
  2. Speed
  3. Power
  4. Anaerobic Endurance
  5. Aerobic Endurance
  6. Agility
  7. Balance
  8. Coordination
  9. Flexibility
  10. Body Composition
  11. Symmetry
  12. Biochemical Balance

Phase 7: Sports Nutrition Education – falls under the 12th IFPA Component of Fitness: Biochemical Balance. Your client needs to be educated on the fact that optimal performance requires good nutrition, hydration, sleep, and stress management, avoiding drugs, smoking, tobacco use and more. Your job as an IFPA Personal Fitness Trainer, Fitness Professional &/or Sports Conditioning Specialist is to help your clients achieve their goals and lead the healthiest, longest, happiest life possible.

Continuously encourage their improvement in both their sport/activity and fitness. Once you can achieve 3,000 calories/week of moderate to intense physical activity, your clients will be well on their way to living a longer, healthier, more productive and happier life!

Children are our future. I hope each and everyone of you uses the knowledge provided here and in our other IFPA Certification and CEC courses like our IFPA Certified Youth Fitness Instructor to help our children grown to be the best they can be and as healthy as they can be!

Good Luck

Dr. Jim Bell



Raghuveer G, Hartz J, Lubans DR, Takken T, Wiltz JL, Mietus-Snyder M, Perak AM, Baker-Smith C, Pietris N, Edwards NM; on behalf of the American Heart Association Young Hearts Athero, Hypertension and Obesity in the Young Committee of the Council on Lifelong Congenital Heart Disease and Heart Health in the Young. Cardiorespiratory fitness in youth: an important marker of health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2020;141:e000–e000. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000866

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