Playful options for children’s exercise

Before the days of Wii Fit,
children exercised by going outside, playing chase and ball and skipping rope.

With the advent of video games,
hundreds of channels on the TV to choose from, doing homework on the computer
and reading books on Kindles, children are leading far more inactive lifestyles
than earlier generations.

Jeanna Parsons, owner of Mobile
Fitness Solutions in Cayman, says parents should take action as soon as they
notice their kids are becoming inactive.

“The sooner the issue can be
addressed the better chance of reversing or preventing the behaviour from
continuing,” she says.

“Parents play a vital part in
preventing the sedentary behaviour. As parents we have to realise we are living
in the age of technology and if we are not careful we could be the very ones
who are promoting the sedentary lifestyle that many children have adopted.”

Getting kids moving is not always
easy, especially if parents are encouraging children to get involved in
activities they don’t enjoy. “Children love to run and play sports. It is
important to find out what the child likes to do. As parents we can encourage
certain activities by involving ourselves. Children love it when their parents
play with them,” said Parsons, who runs an after-school fitness programme for


Exercise as play

If children view their exercise as
play or games they enjoy, they are more likely to stick with it – just like

There is a wide variety of
activities for children to take part in year-round in Cayman. One activity that
many young girls in Cayman have are familiar with is ballet classes at Miss
Jackie’s School of Dance at Pasadora Place.

Artistic Director Jackie Balls, known
throughout Cayman and to the hundreds of dancers who have passed through her
school over the years as Miss Jackie, accepts students as young as three.

“They have to be three at the first
day of registration. There is a vast difference between a child who is two
years and eight months and a three year old,” she said.

She runs an early childhood
programme for children aged three to six. Those classes meet once a week and
last 30 or 45 minutes, depending on age.

The young beginners are taught
“travelling” steps and warm-up exercises that form the basis of the barre work
they will learn in future ballet classes.

“From this, students learn correct
posture and placement of the body over the legs. This is very important for
both the dancers and the non-dancers,” Miss Jackie says in the literature about
her early childhood programme.

There’s lots of gentle stretching
and balance exercises that promote flexibility, as well as development of
creative expression through a variety of free movement exercises.

“Young dancers who are consistently
exposed to this type of activity in class are generally more creative in their
choreographic efforts in later years and are consistently freer in their
movement styles as they develop. 
Besides, it’s just plain fun!,” Miss Jackie says.


Gymnastics popular

Another popular choice for children
in Cayman is Motions Unlimited where they are taught gymnastics. It offers a
programme called “Me and My Shadow” for children aged 15 months to three years
old, which claims through the use of circuits, props, trampolines and music, to
stimulate a child into learning motor skills such as balancing and directional
movement. It also offers a “Tumbling Turtles” programme for three- to
four-year-olds, which teaches them the basics of gymnastics.

Kelley Paz, head coach at Motions
Unlimited, which is owned by Sandra Alberga, said: “Gymnastics provides a solid
foundation for overall fitness. It requires coordination, flexibility, strength
and balance. It is a good basis for all sports including martial arts,
swimming, diving and dance.

“Some experts say the greatest
benefits of gymnastics are that to the mind. Participation in gymnastics helps
the child learn to listen and follow directions, builds self-esteem and
confidence, helps with goal setting skills, concentration, determination, helps
develop social interaction, enhances performance, develops attention to detail
and perseverance.”

However, gymnastics is not
recommended for children who are overweight, Ms Paz said. “Gymnastics is not an
aerobic sport and will not facilitate weight loss. It is not recommended that
overweight children participate due to the fact that their strength to body
weight ratios are not up to par. It tends to be more frustrating for a child
that is unable to do the skills that require strength,” she said.

If there’s one sport that all
children in Cayman should partake in, it’s swimming. Surrounded by the
turquoise Caribbean Sea on all sides, there’s no excuse for kids not to get in
the water. And there are plenty of places and instructors willing to teach
children how to swim.

At Fitness Connection in South
Sound, swimming lessons are available for children as young at three months,
while Captain Kendra Stuck from Cayman Aquatics will take on tiny pupils as
young as two-months-old. Children from the age of three upwards can get
swimming lessons at the Cayman Islands Swim School at the Lions Aquatic Centre.

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