Exercise for Kids

It’s too bad that we even have to look up “exercises for kids”. It used to be that kids needed to be  told to stop playing ball outside. Now, we need to tell them to stop playing their video games and do some exercise.

I am a physical education teacher, coach, and personal trainer. I’m also a dad. I have lots of thoughts on this subject. I will share tips at the end of the article. But, first, some experience:

exercise for kidsKids Don’t Like Formal Exercise

If you you have a dream of seeing your child doing 30 minutes on the treadmill 3 days per week, I hate to tell you, but it’s probably not going to happen. In general, kids view formal exercise as no fun and too much like work (even more than adults do).  Even through the first years of high school, the average youngster simply doesn’t do that type of thing. I coach high school track and cross country teams, and I can tell you with confidence that it’s a rare child that will get out and run on their own. If we don’t have a team practice with all their teammates with them, training simply won’t happen. I can eventually get my more motivated upper-class-men to do some. Many parents come to me frustrated that their child is lazy and unmotivated. They are usually surprised to find out that their youngster is really in the norm.

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Think More Games and Competition than Exercise

Because kids don’t like formal exercise, you need to mask it in the form of sports, games, events with friends and possibly competitions. Admittedly, this poses a challenge for parents. You may feel like an unwanted activity director on a cruise ship.

Kids Perform Much Better for Peers than Adults

As a parent and running coach, I was thrilled when I found that my daughter was blessed with talent as a runner. I dreamt that the two of us would go on runs together and have grand old times that we’d always cherish. Well, she’s off to college next year, and it still doesn’t happen. I came to terms a long time ago that exercising with dad just isn’t motivating. When it’s with me, every pain and excuse pops up to keep the dream from becoming reality. Funny, she never hurts when she’s with her teammates. I hear this from lots of parents.

kids in poolSome Solid Suggestions

If you’re bent on trying actual exercises for kids, here is a list of exercises that will work just fine for children. My advice is to use weights light enough for them to perform at least 15 repetitions. Any heavier could be harmful for their bones and growth plates. I also have a list of exercise options that would be beneficial. But, I recommend this list of suggestions and activities that will be great to get your child motivated and moving:

  • Sports teams: Maybe not every day, but it gets them moving.
  • Gymnastics/ tumbling: This is a great form of exercise for kids.
  • Martial arts: Another all-around, great exercise motivator for kids.
  • Competitive Club Cheerleading  I’m not talking about pom-pons on the sidelines. This is more like team gymnastics. If you’re not familiar, you should research it.
  • Jump Rope
  • Hiking-With friends
  • Cycling
  • Negotiate equal time for activity with sedentary time: 30 minutes of video game time for 30 minutes of activity. Think about it.

Mike Caton

Exercise for Women: What’s the Bottom Line?

As a trainer of women (and men) for over 25 years, I feel pretty confident that I know what you are looking for when you search “exercise for women”. You want to exercise to get in better shape, but make sure you don’t end up looking like a man. Your interests are weight loss, decreased body fat, toned, but not large, muscles, and a fit, but still feminine, physique.


I can’t speak for all exercises that men do, but can say that most men’s exercises can also be women’s exercises. There is an understandable misconception that certain exercises can make you more masculine and others feminine. The truth is our genetics and hormones dictate what we will look like far more than our exercises.


A man and woman doing the same exercises will have very different results. A man will generally achieve an increase in muscle size and a decrease in fat. A woman will have less muscle growth resulting in less fat loss. Women have to do more exercise to achieve similar fat loss than men. But regardless, their muscles will not grow the way that men’s do. Women doing the same exercises (with typical female hormones, and assuming proper diet) generally get smaller as they get leaner. I’m sure you’ve seen lots of images of women with rippling muscles like men, that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Most of them are supplementing with male hormones to achieve a level of muscularity that only a man can achieve. There are some exceptions, though.

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As a trainer, I tend to associate the word exercise with resistance or strength training. In case you are looking more generally for different exercise activities.


For a woman to achieve great results her best chances will come from a combination of resistance training and some form of cardio exercises. Also, daily exercise, versus, every other day is more advised. This helps maintain an elevated metabolism leading to burning more calories 24/7.


Again, most exercises will work fine for both men and women. So, feel confident that an exercise you’ve seen can work for you. But, if you’re still wary, when doing the exercise, stick with lower weight and higher repetitions. This approach minimizes a female’s chance of increasing muscle size. So, the exercises can be the same as for men, but the repetitions and intensity might differ.


I’d like to be able to help you with your goals. Here are a few way I can help:

Mike Caton

Cardio Exercises

Cardio exercises, more accurately, cardiovascular exercises, are those that have the primary goal of exercising the heart and circulatory system. These types of exercises are often referred to as aerobics exercises. Although I choose to use this word, the error is that all exercises, even strength training, work the heart. So, there are no, non-cardio exercises. But, for the sake of speaking the same language, let’s refer to cardio exercises as those that are not strength based, but can be used for cardiovascular health and calorie burning.

It’s also important to note that cardio exercises can be performed for a long time if the intensity is kept low (aerobic), or shorter bursts of higher intensity (anaerobic).

List of Cardio Exercises

This is a partial list of cardio options:

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You may also be interested in a more a complete list of activities for exercise and list of exercises for weight loss.

Mike Caton

Abdominal Exercises

Abdominal exercises or Ab exercises are among the most popular exercises done anywhere in fitness. They are done by two groups of exercisers. The first group calls theses exercises “core” exercises. They perform them because they understand that their core (torso) is the basis for all movement and necessary for stabilization of their spine. The second group calls them “ab” exercises. They perform them because on some level they are still under the misconception that belly exercises will make their mid-section smaller either by losing fat in that area or by making those muscles tighter.


Benefits of Ab Exercises

When done properly, ab exercises can have these benefits:

  • Strengthen your abdominal muscles
  • Support for the spine
  • Lower incidence of back pain
  • Improved posture
  • Better athletic performance

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Non Benefits

Contrary to popular misconception, abdominal exercises do not do the following:

  • Decrease stomach fat: Fat is burned as a fuel for your whole body and the body takes if from all over. Exercising one part of your body does not take fat from that area.
  • Smaller waist: For the same reason as above, ab exercises do not make your waist smaller. You have to lose fat by a good diet and exercises. See Exercises to Lose Weight to learn more about this.

Ab Muscles and How to Work Each

There are four muscle groups. But, keep in mind that it’s hard to isolate just one ab muscle. Most are somewhat involved in all.  Just one is the prime mover getting the most work.

  • Rectus Abdominus: This muscle is responsible to contract the spine to the front. Ex. Crunch.
  • Internal Obliques: These muscles are responsible for contracting the spine on one side. Meaning, the left internal oblique brings the left shoulder toward the left hip and the right internal oblique brings it back and vice versa. Ex. Side bends.
  • External Obliques: These muscles are responsible for contracting the spine to go across your body, either laterally or at an angle. Ex. Twists and Twist Crunch
  • Transverse Abdominus: This muscle is responsible for holding your stomach in and rotate your pelvis forward. Ex. Vacuums and pelvic stabilization.

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Mike Caton