raising a good sport

“Good Game!” Smart Strategies for Raising a Good Sport

“Good game, good game, good game…” The image of teammates lining up at the end of a sporting event to acknowledge one another and give a hand shake is one that is well known to most. Go Hawks! Although the sentiment may not be the same for all players involved at the end of a tough game, it is a ritual that has lived on and is a vital component to being a “good sport”.

Being a good sport may be something that comes easily for some, but others could use a few pointers. As a parent, there are a few things you can do to work with your child in becoming a better sport. In Fred Frankels book, “Friends Forever: How parents can help their kids make and keep good friends,” he outlines some easy steps to helping your child master the art of sportsmanship!

Tips for raising a good sport:

  1. Take the game seriously – when first joining a team or group of friends, it’s important to take the gameStrategies for Raising a Good Sport seriously with the others involved – goofing around could show the kids that you aren’t ready to play by the rules!
  2. Avoid refereeing – instead of arguing about the rules and pointing out mistakes other kids have made, let someone else do it!
  3. Let others have fun, too – If your child is MVP, teach them to let others have a chance to win, too.
  4. Give praise – it’s important to teach (and MODEL) to your child that winning is not the most important thing- it’s having fun! Learning different ways to praise his friends and teammates is vital – things like “good shot”, “nice try” and the ever-popular “good game” are just a few examples!
  5. Suggest a new rule instead of arguing – instead of shouting out when someone does something wrong, suggest that from this point “the white line is out”.
  6. Don’t walk away if you are losing or tired of playing – teaching your child to stay until the end of a round or talking to the teammates about maybe playing something new is important before just walking away!

As a parent, if you are able to watch your child in action at the park or on the field, it can be vital to remind your child of these rules and address them as they are or aren’t happening. If possible, it is ideal to be able to call your child over and talk with them briefly about what you saw and gently remind them with specific examples. Remember, as in learning any new skill, it takes some practice and reminders! Be patient and let the art of sportsmanship live on!

Click here for more tips on raising a good sport!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Help! My Child Won’t Exercise

 As a pediatric physical therapist, I often prescribe home exercises for my patients. When parents follow through with these exercises on a regular basis, the potential benefits exponentially increase. The problem arises when a child begins to view these exercises as a chore and parents receive push-back. Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned along the way to help motivate your kids to exercise.

Use a Reward SystemHelp! I can't get my child to exercise

            Creating a simple star chart will help keep your child motivated throughout multiple exercises. Using small rewards once the chart is complete will also help your child develop a sense of pride in his/her work. These rewards do not need to be material- or food-focused; rather a reward can be as simple and gratifying as having a special Friday movie night. Try and develop a reward system that supports your child’s hobbies/interests. This may be a great jumping off point for instilling a healthy relationship with physical activity.

Change up your Routine

            Just as your personal exercise routine can grow monotonous over time, the same may hold true for your child’s home exercises. Asking your therapist to update your child’s exercise regimen is a great way to boost enthusiasm for home exercises. Home exercises should be updated regularly as your child strengthens and improves his/her skills in order to effectively challenge your child. Once a goal is met, work with the physical therapist to develop new exercises that will keep your child on the path to success.

Turn it into a Game

            A large part of my job as a pediatric physical therapist is figuring out novel ways to motivate children to partake in therapy sessions. I have seen that the best way to ensure enthusiastic participation is to re-tool something that may seem like a “chore” and transform it into a fun game. Instead of a mind-numbing walk on the treadmill, why not consider creating a fun obstacle course around the backyard? Or use a high energy scavenger hunt in which your child has to complete various physical feats before proceeding to the next level? Re-imagining a traditionally dull exercise into something fun can be a deeply rewarding experience!

NSPT offers physical therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Physical Therapy versus Personal Training: Key Differences and What’s Best for Your Child

Let me start by explaining what a physical therapist and a personal trainer do and who they can help.

Who is a physical therapist?physical therapy or personal training for your child

A physical therapist is a board certified movement expert. They analyze abnormal movement patterns and, through tests and measures, determine what impairments are causing those patterns. Physical therapists may use a combination of manual therapy, neuromuscular re-education, modalities, and exercises to address those impairments and improve function.

Who is a personal trainer?

The American College of Sports Medicine defines a ACSM certified personal trainer as a person who “is qualified to plan and implement exercise programs for healthy individuals or those who have medical clearance to exercise.”[1] They give advice on general health and wellness tips, personalizing it to each client. Personal trainers may also help you progress your exercise routine.

Which is right for you?

Now that we know what each is and what they do, who is best suited to help you? Well, it depends. If you are a healthy individual who has been cleared for exercise, a personal trainer can help you stick to and progress an exercise plan. When you have a physical impairment that is affecting your function, head to a physical therapist to receive treatment.

While physical therapy may be what’s best for your child at one point in his life, this may change over time. I know many physical therapists that may discharge a child from their care due to completion of goals and return to function, but who recommend continued exercises to maintain those goals. A personal trainer may be helpful at this time to follow through with these recommendations.  Transitioning from physical therapy services to a personal trainer too early can result in return of impairment or injury.

Please consult with a health care professional prior to change in care.

NSPT offers physical therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Resources: [1] ACSM webpage. “http://certification.acsm.org/acsm-certified-personal-trainer. “ Accessed on 2/1/2015.

stroller safety

Get into Pre-Baby Shape: Stroller Safety Edition

Celebrities make getting back into pre-baby shape look so easy! I’m sure you could too with your own team of nutritionist, nannies, personal trainers, and seamlessly infinite amounts of free time. Unfortunately, this is not the way of life for most people and those new moms who are looking to get in shape must utilize their time wisely. Often times this means dual-tasking: squats during trips back and forth to the laundry room, taking the stairs 2 at a time, jogging while pushing a stroller. So if you’re thinking about getting back in shape through some stroller jogging, here a few tips to optimize your workout and prevent injury.

Make the most of your stroller-based exercise with these safety tips:exercising stroller mom

  1. Good Posture – Good posture applies to more than static positions such as sitting and standing. When walking or jogging, it is important to remember to engage your core muscles to maintain an erect posture. This provides the base for all other muscles to work most effectively. When pushing a stroller, it is important to remember that you are pushing the stroller, not using it as a device to hold you up. A good rule of thumb is if you were to fall over if you let go of the stroller, you are leaning too heavily on it.
  2. Shoulder and Elbow Alignment – Once your core base is set, the next thing to look at is the angles at which forces are being relayed up to your shoulders and elbows. Ideally, your shoulders should be between 0 and 45 degrees of flexion and at neutral rotation. To find this position start with arms at your side. Bend your elbows to make 90 degree angles and point your thumbs to the sky. You have just now put your arms in 0 degrees of shoulder flexion and neutral rotation! Depending on preference, you can now raise your arms anywhere from at your sides to just below the nipple line for most people. This is the 0 to 45 degrees of shoulder flexion range.  When looking at elbow positions, the most important thing to remember is to keep those elbows bent! Once we lock out those elbows into full extension, we dramatically increase the joint compression force dealt to the shoulders, thereby decreasing the amount of overall arm muscle activation. This elbow extended position also tends to lead to leaning on the stroller. And as we previously talked about, this inhibits our ability to maintain a good posture. Ideally you should have between 90-135 degrees of elbow flexion.
  3. Scapular Stability – If you’re finding it difficult to keep your elbows bent and off your body, even though your posture is great, you may need to look to your shoulder blades to make sure they are providing the stable base needed for arm movement. The scapulae (shoulder blades) provide the bases for muscles further down the chain to work most effectively. Muscle fatigue in shoulders or arm muscles may be attributed to poor scapular strength. By working on scapular stability strength, you may be able to decrease shoulder pain and fatigue, and get more from your work out.

  Please seek medical attention if pain persists longer than 2 weeks or inhibits daily function.

Click here to learn more about what makes exercise so good for the body!

 

3 Tips for Raising a Good Sport

This past month, the 2014 MLB season came to a close with the wild card San Francisco Giants winning the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. The season was exciting, filled with historic pitching feats. The most memorable moment of MLB 2014, however, was Derek Jeter’s farewell tour.

Derek Jeter, legendary shortstop for the New York Yankees, led an impressive 20 year career: he helped carry his team to 5 World Series Championships, was nominated to play on the American League All-Star team 14 times, and held numerous records for the Yankee organization. Jeter was respected not only amongst opposing managers and players, but also amongst the umpire staff. During an era when it is commonplace for managers to storm onto home plate and argue calls, Jeter stayed classy. He was never one to throw a bat out of rage or turn and yell at the umpire when things did not go his way. He often demonstrated his reputation as one of the few good role models in professional sports. Thus, when Jeter finally made the decision to hang up his jersey, Major League Baseball gave him a farewell tour.

So in honor of Derek Jeter’s retirement, I give you three tips for raising a good sport of your own:

  1. Model good sportsmanship, in both wins and in losses. You are your child’s first and most formative 200211664-001teacher, so exhibit good behavior in front of them in all competitive/leisure activities, from board games to sporting events. Make it a habit to say, “Good game,” to your opponent in wins or losses, and compliment your opponents often for the things they do well. Make sure to thank coaches and referees who volunteer their time each week. And, most importantly, have fun! When your child sees you having fun regardless of the outcome, it will reinforce the belief that winning is not everything.
  2. Place emphasis on having fun, improving skills, and making friends during games and sports. It is important to recognize that there is so much more to participating in sports than winning. Sports are a great avenue for learning discipline, setting personal goals for lifelong self-improvement, making friends, and instilling a love of exercise and healthy, balanced living.
  3. What do you do when your child loses? Losing can be very tough on young egos. It’s important to not let a loss deter your child from enjoying the game. Use a loss as an opportunity to sit down and have a heart to heart conversation with your child. Be available when your child needs you and provide support and guidance. This will help you to develop a trusting relationship with your child. Looking back on my youth sports career, my fondest memories are sitting down with my dad after the game over a milkshake recapping the things I did well and things I could work on. I don’t remember how many games I won or lost, but I’ll always remember those milkshakes! (Click here on more tips on what to do when your child loses a game.)


why I love being a pediatric physical therapist

The Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Being a Pediatric Physical Therapist

October is National Physical Therapy Month and an important time of the year to promote physical therapy as a profession. There are many areas physical therapists can specialize in: orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, women’s health, sports, cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy, and geriatrics. So why did I choose to specialize in children’s physical therapy?

These are the top 5 reasons I love being a pediatric physical therapist:

  1. I sing, I dance, and I laugh, daily. Being a pediatric physical therapist is as much about creativity as clinicalwhy I love being a pediatric physical therapist competency. We have to use our knowledge of human movement and development to detect early health and mobility problems in infants, children, and adolescents with a variety of injuries, disorders, and diseases. But at the same time, we have to make exercises and the whole therapy process FUN! I spend a majority of my work day dancing, singing, and jumping right along with my clients. Studies have shown that the simple act of smiling can bring about happiness. I can definitely attest to that!
  2. I don’t have to choose. Being a specialist in the field of physical therapy means clinicians must focus on specific body systems or medical diagnoses. For example, orthopedic specialists often diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and neurological specialists often concentrate on neurological conditions such as brain injury, spinal cord injury, or Parkinson’s. Meanwhile, so much goes into a child’s development that pediatric physical therapists don’t have to choose. We often work with musculoskeletal injuries, neurological insults, as well as cardiopulmonary abnormalities during development. In planning and carrying out treatment for a variety of conditions such as cerebral palsy, adolescent sports injuries, and cystic fibrosis, we don’t have to choose between different systems of the body.
  3. I am still learning. Every stage of children’s development, from the typical and atypical to the cognitive and physical, fascinates me. What is awesome about being a specialist in children’s development is that I have to be constantly up to date on the latest research on children. With the advances in modern medicine come a new assortment of complications and need for therapeutic interventions. In working alongside other pediatric healthcare professionals such as behavioral analysts, speech therapists, pediatricians, neuropsychologists, and occupational therapists, I gain invaluable insight into every aspect of the development of children. Every age, diagnosis, and milestone presents another learning opportunity.
  4. I am proud of what I do. There are certainly days when the most that I accomplish is a pile of paperwork. Yet rarely is there a day where I feel like I wasted my time. Sure, I get my share of crying babies, screaming toddlers, temperamental teenagers, and challenging parents. But at the end of the day, the frustrating parts of my work are always completely washed away when I see the excited faces of first time walkers, proud parents, and supportive coworkers. The fact that my work directly contributed to these newfound skills in others makes me take pride in what I do.
  5. I am proud of what others do. Children are an exceptionally inspiring clientele to work with. In this setting, every milestone feels like it deserves a standing ovation. Behind every first step and every new skill, is the hard work of the parents and children I work with. Exercising IS hard. The recovery process is sometimes a slow one. With kids, no small victory goes unnoticed. I have witnessed many children’s first steps, and I was right next to their parents beaming with pride. You know that feeling when you learned to ride a bicycle for the first time without training wheels? I get to see kids and parents experiencing something like that, every day.

Being a pediatric physical therapist means I encourage children to move, to grow, and to become independent. Really, they make my job easy, because they motivate me too.

Are you interested in becoming a pediatric physical therapist? Click here to learn more about our Physical Therapy Student Fieldwork Program.

the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2)

Understanding Physical Therapy Outcome Measurements: The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2)

Previous physical therapy blogs have explained outcome measurements used to assess gross motor development in infants and children up to age 5, including the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale, second edition and the Alberta Infant Motor Scale. When children age out of either the PDMS-2 or the AIMS, one standardized assessment option physical therapists have is the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2). The BOT-2 can be used to evaluate a wide variety of fine and gross motor skills for children, teenagers and young adults 4-21 years of age. This is a test that can also be used by occupational therapists, psychologists, adaptive physical education teachers, special education teachers and educational diagnosticians.

The BOT-2 contains a total of 8 subtests that look at both fine and gross motor functioning. When certain subtests are combined, they can give more specific information regarding the child’s Fine Manual Control, Manual Coordination, Body Coordination, or Strength and Agility. Administering all 8 subtests can allow the physical therapist to obtain a Total Motor Composite looking at the child’s overall performance with fine and gross motor functioning.

Below is a description of the subtests most commonly used by physical therapists in BOT-2 testing:

  • Bilateral Coordination: This section of the BOT-2 looks at a child’s control with tasks requiring movement ofthe Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2) both sides of the body. Tasks in this section will require the child to move his arms and legs from the same and opposite sides of the body together, in sequence, or in opposition.
  • Balance: The balance subtest evaluates the child’s moving and stationary balance. Tasks are completed with a variety of challenges to the balance systems, such as while on one foot, on a balance beam, or with eyes closed.
  • Running Speed and Agility: This section of the test looks at a child’s maximum running speed, running and changing directions, as well as stationary and dynamic hopping and jumping skills.
  • Upper-Limb Coordination: This subtest is used to assess the child’s ability to coordinate arm and hand movements and visual tracking of the task. The child is required to demonstrate skills such as catching, throwing and dribbling a tennis ball with one or both hands.
  • Strength: In the strength section of testing, the child is required to perform tasks designed to evaluate strength in the core, arms and legs. Strength is assessed in both static positions as well as with dynamic movements.

Based on the child’s presenting concerns, a physical therapist may evaluate the child using just a few or all of these subtests. The child’s performance on the BOT-2 will allow the physical therapist to identify areas of strength and areas of need in regards to the child’s gross motor functioning, and can therefore help to guide treatment. Because the BOT-2 has both age and sex-specific normative data, this test will help the physical therapist determine how the child is performing compared to peers his age. The BOT-2 can be re-administered periodically in order to monitor progress in the child’s functioning and performance with gross motor skills.

If you have concerns with your child’s performance in any of the categories listed above, click here to get scheduled with one of our pediatric physical therapists!

References:
Bruininks, Robert H., and Brett D. Bruininks. Bruininks-Oseretsky Test Motor Proficiency. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Pearson, 2005. Print.

why hula hooping is a great exercise for kids

Why Hula Hooping is a Great Exercise for Kids

 

 

 

Part of my job as a pediatric physical therapist is to try to make exercises and the rehabilitation process fun for kids. Most of the physical performance measurements we use during therapy including jumping, running, and stair climbing as tools of assessment. But, I get just as excited when one of my clients learns to hula hoop for the first time, and here is why: hula hooping is a great exercise for kids!

The benefits of hula hooping for kids:

  1. Coordination – At as young as 5 years of age, children are able to break down major tasks that require coordination of every part of their body doing different motions, such as bicycling, jump roping, and hula hooping. What makes hula hooping challenging is that in order to be successful at the task, kids have to separate their trunk movements from their limbs, maintain a stable balance, and incorporate flexibility in their motions at the same time.
  2. Core strength – Performing the hula hip motion while keeping the hoop up at the trunk requires abdominal, oblique, and upper back muscle recruitment. These are big core muscles that we all need to stand and sit upright. Keeping the trunk muscles strong will help with posture, endurance, and total body coordination.
  3. Endurance – Physical fitness is so important in children and adolescence. Health-related fitness is undeniably multidimensional. Endurance itself has many components: cardiovascular, muscular, and mental. While a typically developing school-aged child should be able to remain active and play for at least 30 minutes without need for rest, so few kids these days get a chance to build on their active time outside of school. So many kids I meet can barely play for 5 minutes without being short of breath, needing to sit down, or getting frustrated by a tough physical task.
  4. Flexibility – In order to successfully keep a hula hoop up off the ground, flexibility is just as important as strength. Many kids who don’t get enough regular exercise are often stiff and uncoordinated. There’s a reason why flexibility is often on fitness tests given in schools. Parents and teachers sometimes forget flexibility is an important aspect of physical fitness. In order to ensure proper musculoskeletal development, flexibility is key. Hula hooping teaches children how to purposefully wiggle their hips, separate their two sides, gain range of motion in all their big joints, and have fun at the same time.
  5. Attention – As anyone who tries to pick up a new task knows, learning a new activity takes practice and focus. Young children who are learning something as different and challenging as the hula hoop are honing not just their physical skills but their mental fortitude as well. A task that requires coordinated movements of every part of the body requires lots of repetition to master. Having the attention and motivation to master a new physical activity will help with improved attention for school-related tasks.
  6. Confidence – Hula hooping offers many ways to expand a child’s skills set, such as moving the hula hoop up the body, performing while standing on one foot, etc. Mastery of each new skill offers children the chance to feel pride in themselves. I’ve seen children’s programs and dance competitions dedicated to hula hooping, and not a single child could stay bored or frustrated with this amusing task. There are organizations out there dedicated to introducing hula hooping to children. Nothing boosts a young child’s confidence like being able to show off new found hula hoop skills in front of her parents and friends. I have even used hula hoops as an introduction to jump rope skills.

One recent study found that today’s children are less physically fit than their parents and their endurance is on the decline. There’s a way to combat this slow onset of sedentary lifestyle for kids who aren’t so into team sports or outdoor activities. Tons of toys are out there to make physical activities seem fun, unique, and not in the least bit boring for young minds. Hula hoops are just one of many that physical therapists love to use, in order to bring out the best in little growing bodies.

Click here to view our Gross Motor Milestones Infographic!

7-minute workout for kids

The Benefits of the 7-Minute Workout for Kids

 

 

 

In May 2013, the New York Times reported on a research-based high-intensity workout for adults that lasts only 7-minutes! It boasts 12 exercises that only last 30 seconds each, with little to no equipment involved. It sounds too good to be true, but there is quite a bit of exercise science to back up the findings. High-intensity interval training, which is the basis of this workout, is a form of endurance training.

Needless to say, I’ve tried out the 7-minute workout myself. It is a pretty tough 7 minutes. These exercises are meant to be hard. But they are also over after 7 minutes.  As a pediatric physical therapist, I wondered if the 7-minute workout could be modified for kids.

So is the 7-minute workout something you can do with your kids?

Of course! Intensive endurance training has been proven effective in kids as young as 8 years old. That said, I have also taken bits and pieces of the workout and used them as part of exercise program for kids as young as 5 years old. There are components of the 12 exercises that work on more than just muscle and cardiovascular endurance.

Here is a  break down of each exercise in the 7-minute workout and why they are part of a pediatric physical therapist’s repertoire:

1) Jumping Jacks: Kids as young as 5 years old should be able to perform jumping jacks with proper technique. This is an exercise that works on total body coordination, motor planning, and endurance.

2) Wall sit: This is a great way to strengthen the hip and trunk. A lot of children I see have gait deviations related to weakness in their thigh and hip muscles. They also have weakness in their large muscles that are needed for postural control. Modified (less intense) versions of a wall sit can help work on muscles they need for bigger movements such as running, walking, and jumping.

3) Push-ups: A typically developing 6 year old should be able to do 8 push-ups in 30 seconds. Working on push-ups with proper form teach correct use of abdominal muscles and postural muscles in the upper trunk.

4) Abdominal crunch: Doing sit-ups is an obvious measurement of abdominal/trunk strength in children. It is part of many school-aged fitness tests (read about the FitnessGram here). A typically developing 5 year old is able to do at least 1-3 sit-ups without having to use compensations such as pulling up with the arms. Abdominal muscles are important not only for posture, but for the development of balance and ball skills.

5) Step-up onto chair: This is a big muscle group exercise. Steps of different heights can be used depending on age and ability. Often times, the number of repetitions a child can do is not the most important thing. What matters more is the quality of movements. Being able to step-up and down using either leg equally, being able to step-up without using hands, and being able to keep hips/knees in neutral alignment are all the things we look for in a typically developing child. This exercise will help build strength, symmetry, and lower body alignment so your little one can do age-appropriate skills such as stair climbing and jumping.

6) Squat: Whether a child does squats with hands supported or free-standing, squats work on large muscles such as the glutes and the core. In children who walk on their toes, I also have them work on playing and jumping in the squat position. It stretches out their calves and encourages them to shift weight back through their heels.

7) Triceps dip on chair: Triceps dips are hard to master. It is a modified version of the bridge position, or crab position, as I tell most of my 3-year-olds. It is another great way to encourage heel contact, abdominal muscle strength, and upper body strength. Being able to just hold the position for a 5 year old strengthens more than just the belly muscles. It strengthens the muscles that wrap around the trunk, promoting posture.

8) Plank: Ask anyone who has ever held a plank and they will tell you this is a full body workout! From strengthening the shoulder girdle, to engaging all core muscles, to working on balance, this exercise gives you the most bang for your buck. The importance of many of these things has been touched on previously, but it should be noted that proper shoulder girdle strength is imperative for many things, including ball skills, legible hand writing, and other fine motor tasks.

9) High knees running in place: Running in place with high knees encourages forefoot push-off, and strengthening of calves and quadriceps. Strong muscles in these areas allow for increased push-off during running and jumping activities, allowing a child to run faster and jump farther.

10) Lunge: Lunges are another great exercise utilized by physical therapists to address many different areas. Lunges can help improve ankle range of motion, quadriceps strength, and dynamic balance. Just like with squats, this exercise can be performed both with hands supported and free-standing, depending on the child’s strength and balance needs.

11) Push-up and rotation: This exercise is a way to increase the difficulty of a regular push-up, while also addressing the core muscles important for dynamic postural control. A child should only move on to these exercises once he/she has mastered regular push-ups with good form; regular push-ups can be substituted at station 11 if needed.

12) Side plank: This exercise is a way to increase the difficulty of a regular plank, while focusing primarily on rotator cuff strength and stability. A strong rotator cuff is necessary to prevent injury with repetitive overhead tasks, such as throwing and swimming. Many children who play competitive baseball, softball, and swimming, should be on a rotator cuff strengthening program to limit the frequency of overuse injuries.

Incorporating this short work-out into your family’s daily routine is a great way for the whole family to stay active and show your children the how important it is to exercise regularly. Always remember to get cleared by your physician prior to the start of a new exercise routine. If your school-aged child reports pain or if you notice significant difficulty with any of these exercises, please contact our physical therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy to set up an evaluation.

Co-written by Andrea Ragsdale PT

Reference:

Stout, JL. Physical Fitness during Childhood and Adolescence. In Campbell, SK. Physical Therapy for Children ed 3. St. Louis, Missouri : Elsevier, 2006. pp 257-287

FitnessGram

What is the FitnessGram and Why Are These Standards Used in Schools?

 

 

 

For more than 30 years, children from 5 to 18 years old have been tested using the FitnessGram Healthy Fitness Zone standards. Parents often wonder: What are these standards and how do the calculations reflect children’s health and fitness?

The most I remember from taking part in the FitnessGram back in the day was trying to reach for my toes and then getting pinched in the back of my arm. But the FitnessGram is more than just a measure of body fat and flexibility. The test items are used to determine body composition and aerobic capacity in children. They present a multi-dimensional view of children’s health. The test items reinforce health-related fitness research. The results serve to teach students and parents that just modest amounts of physical activity can improve their performance. The program helps children and parents better understand and appreciate a physically active lifestyle. The assessment does not compare one child to another and it tests fitness, not skill.

So what are the test items in the FitnessGram and what area of fitness do they measure?

To measure Aerobic Capacity (The ability to perform big muscle group high intensity exercises for a long period of time, such as running, jumping, and walking):

  • PACER test, Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run, is a multi-stage endurance test, with twenty-one levels that increase in difficulty as children run 20 meter laps that gets faster and faster with each lap.
  • 1-Mile Run tests a child’s endurance and is a great indicator of fitness
  • Walk-test also helps to measure aerobic capacity, or the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently.

To measure Muscle Strength (the ability of muscles to exert an external force) and Muscle Endurance (muscles’ ability to repeatedly exert an external force without fatigue):

  • Pull-ups are a measure of upper body strength and endurance
  • Push-ups are a measure of upper body and trunk strength and endurance
  • Curl-ups are a measure of abdominal strength and endurance
  • Trunk lift is a measure of back muscle strength and endurance

To measure Flexibility (the range of motion across a joint and the ability for muscles to stretch):

  • Sit and reach tests for flexibility of the trunk.
  • Shoulder stretch tests for the flexibility of one the shoulder, which is one of the most flexible joints in the body.

To measure for Body Composition (the makeup of the body and the ratio of fat tissue to non-fat tissue such as muscle and bone):

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Skinfold Measurement
  • Bioelectric Impedance Analyzers

The results of the test classify children’s performance as Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) or Needs Improvement (NI) zone. Children who score in the Needs Improvement zone receive reports that let them and their parents know that their currently at risk for future health problems. Some children may even score in the Health Risk category of the Needs Improvement zone. If they continue to live a sedentary lifestyle, there will be clear and potential health problems. Overall, The FitnessGram has been widely accepted in schools as a great educational tool for parents, teachers, and coaches. It builds a strong healthy foundation in children as young as elementary school. The program teaches them, through a hands-on approach, that being physical active in childhood pays off later on in life.

Click here for more great fitness related posts!

References:
Plowman, S.A. Muscular Strength, Endurance, and Flexibility Assessments. In S. A. Plowman & M.D. Meredith (Eds.), Fitnessgram/Activitygram Reference Guide (pp. Internet Resource). (2014) Dallas, TX: The Cooper Institute.
Plowman, S.A. & Meredith, M.D. (Eds.). Fitnessgram/Activitygram Reference Guide. (2014) Dallas, TX: The Cooper Institute.