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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

Incorporating Balance into Your Child’s Before-School Routine

boy balancing on floorBalance, like many things, will only get better with practice and through challenging the balance systems. However, it can be hard to find time after school to work on balance activities when kids already have mountains of homework to keep up with. It can also be difficult to make balance exercises fun and enjoyable for kids.

In order to work on balance skills while saving time and keeping it interesting, here is a list of 5 balance activities that can easily be incorporated into your child’s before-school routine:

  1. Put pants, shoes, and socks on while standing up-This will require your child to stand on one leg while using her arms to don the clothing.
  2. Sit in ‘tall kneeling’ (sitting on knees with hips straight and knees kept at a 90 degree angle) while packing up the backpack-Sitting in the tall kneeling position narrows your child’s base of support, making it harder for her to maintain her balance. This posture also helps to strengthen her hip muscles, which are an important part of keeping her stable in positions that are challenging for her balance.
  3. Sit on a pillow while having breakfast-The pillow serves as an unstable surface, so your child will have to work hard to balance while sitting on it. This is a great way to work on core strength as well.
  4. Walk heel-to-toe on the way to the bus stop-Narrowing the base of support by walking heel to toe will challenge your child’s balance  and help improve her balance when she performs dynamic movements such as running or walking.
  5. Brush teeth with eyes closed-Vision is a big component of balancing, and when you close your eyes you are no longer able to rely on that sense to balance. Your body instead will have to use its vestibular and proprioceptive systems to keep steady.

It is going to be important to supervise your child when beginning these balance activities, as they may be hard at first. If you have significant concerns about your child’s balance with daily activities or if you have balance-related safety concerns, you can contact an occupational or physical therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. To find out more about the vestibular system read our blog To find out more about the proprioceptive system read our blog

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How Does Play Help Meet a Child’s Therapy Goals?

Occupational therapists often use play as a means of helping achieve our clients’ goals. Many times, it may not look like our sessions are working on your child’s areas of need; however, when we are working with children, we often try to adapt play activities in order to help your child meet his goals. Play is a very motivating activity for a child to engage in with the therapist and work on some of his goals. Play may also mask the fact that children are working on a difficult skill by introducing fun into the activity. For example, if one of the child’s goals is to improve his handwriting skills, you could play a game that involves writing, such as Boggle, Scattergories, or crossword puzzles.

Therapist and child at Gym

Here are some play activities that OT’s use to help your child meet his goals:

  1. If your child needs to work on balance and coordination, we may play basketball while standing on top of a bosu ball (imagine standing on the rounded part of a ball cut in half).
  2. A child who needs to work on core and upper extremity strength could meet these goals by playing a game while lying on his stomach over a therapy ball, while balancing with his arms on the ground.
  3. In order to improve self-regulation for a child who has sensory concerns, we may start our session by playing on the gym equipment in order to help regulate his nervous system.
  4. To work on bilateral coordination and fine motor skills with a child who does not like drawing, we often use play-doh and have him trace shapes and cut them out with scissors.
  5. Another way to work on gross motor coordination is to practice climbing a rock wall, climbing a ladder, or swinging on the monkey bars.

Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to adapt the activity and make it fun for the child. In this case, the therapist may have the child participate in an activity to work on the skills he needs to improve, but use a play activity as a reward.  From the first example in which the child’s goal is to improve handwriting, the child may still not want to play the games that involve handwriting. Then, the therapist may tell the child that after handwriting, he can do an activity of his choice.

Hopefully, this blog provides a bit more insight into the therapist’s mindset while working with your child. The therapist is constantly thinking and problem solving about how to make an activity therapeutic and how to make it easier or harder based on the child’s ability to succeed at the tasks. If the therapist is successful, the child will not even realize the activities are working on their areas of need and will want to come to therapy every session!

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How Household Materials Can Be Used For Occupational Therapy Goals

In occupational therapy sessions, we often use common materials and games to make our sessions therapeutic and fun.

Here are some ways that you can use materials and equipment that you may have lying around at home to help your children reach their occupational therapy goals:

Children play household games

  1. Board Games Board games are a great way to help your children develop their social skills and fine motor skills. Board games can be a way to improve eye contact, turn taking, and sharing. Many board games, such as Battleship, Trouble, and Perfection, involve small pieces that need to be placed into the game board. By having your child use his fingers to manipulate these pieces, it can help him understand how to hold small objects which can facilitate learning how to properly hold writing utensils. In addition to helping to hold small pieces, it can also assist your child to develop other fine motor skills, such as manual dexterity and in hand manipulation skills. For example, you can have your child hold onto several of the pieces with one hand and put them into the game board one by one. Using board games that also have cards, such as Sorry, can also help improve manual dexterity by means of shuffling, dealing, and manipulating the cards without dropping them or revealing them to the other players.
  2. Play-Doh Play-Doh is a wonderful tool to improve fine motor skills in children. Play-Doh can be used as a medium to practice writing, drawing, and cutting. You can trace different geometric forms (circle, square, and triangle) into the Play-Doh with a pencil and have you child copy the shapes in another piece of flattened Play-Doh and cut them out with scissors. Using Play-Doh to practice drawing and cutting is often a good precursor to writing with a pencil and paper as the texture of Play-Doh is more resistive which makes cutting and tracing easier. Play-Doh can also be used to help strengthen the small muscles in their hands by rolling it into a snake, ball, and flattening it into a pancake.
  3. Puzzles Puzzles can be used to help your children improve their visual-perceptual skills which is important for many school tasks, such as copying things from the board and finding items in their desk. The complexity of puzzles can very greatly, from simple large peg puzzles in a wooden form to 100 piece jigsaw puzzles. If you have an older child, using a complex jigsaw puzzle can be a great way to work on planning, sequencing, organizing, and problem-solving skills.
  4. Playground equipment Using the playground or the jungle gym in the backyard is the perfect way to help your children increase their core strength, upper body strength, and bilateral coordination. This will help build up the strength in your children’s larger muscles so that when they have to work at their desk or a table, their core and upper body will have the stability and endurance to sit and complete fine motor activities.
  5. Balls Playing catch, kicking, dribbling, and volleyball are just a few of the many ways balls can be therapeutic. All of these activities involve using eye-hand coordination, balance, and core strength which are great skills to have for a variety of gross motor and fine motor activities. These activities can also help with ocular motor skills as your child needs to track the object through space.

There are many types of equipment and materials used during therapy that can be adapted to meet the needs of your child. You can find these materials and many more around your house in order to improve your child’s skills so he or she can be successful in school and play activities!

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Low Muscle Tone Revealed

Muscle tone refers to the muscle’s ability to sustain a contraction. It is different than muscle strength, which refers the muscles’ power. A child with low muscle tone is often observed to sit with a slouched posture, may have difficulty holding their head upright when sitting at a desk and may be observed to prop their head up with their hand. Mother and child with balance ballOther observations include having difficulty sitting for extended periods of time, particularly without back support or w-sitting, where the legs are splayed out to the side in the shape of a ‘w’ when sitting on the ground.

Muscle tone cannot actually be changed, though through occupational or physical therapy, muscles will become stronger and compensate for the low muscle tone to help support your child through his/her daily tasks.

Here are five activities to help address strength, endurance and low muscle tone at home and in the community:

  1. At the park, have your child lie on his belly on the slide and pull himself up the slide using only his arms.
  2. Complete yoga poses that work on balance and core strength, like down dog or plank.
  3. Using a weighted ball or BOSU ball, have your child lift the ball overhead with both arms, lower it to the floor and balance his hands on the ball while he jumps his feet backwards into a plank position. Repeat these steps 10 times.
  4. Have your child lie on his back on the floor. With his legs raised off the floor and knees bent, have him weave a ball between his legs.
  5. Encourage your child to use the monkey bars or hang from the zip-line when at the park.

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Ways to Improve Core Strength at the Playground

As the weather is becoming nicer, you are most likely spending more time outside and at your neighborhood parks. If your child is working on improving their core strength in their therapy sessions and at home, this can also be carried over while playing on a playground.Child swinging in the playground

The following activities can be completed to improve your child’s core strength:

  • Climbing ladders
  • Completing monkey bars
  • Pumping themselves on the swing or pushing another friend or sibling on the swing
  • Going down the slide in a “V” position
  • Jumping off surfaces of varying heights with two feet together
  • Create an obstacle course throughout the playground
  • Crawling through tunnels, under things , and over things
  • Running on different surfaces (sand, wood chips, grass, sidewalks, uneven bridges)

Hopefully these activities will add some variety into the home exercise program your child is currently doing.

Happy Exercising!

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Stability Ball Exercises

The stability ball is a simple and easy piece of equipment to work into everyday exercise for your child, ranging from infant to teenager.  Stability balls can be bought at most sports stores, cost only about 20 dollars, and last for years.

Below are some fun activities to follow along with your kiddos to see improvements in core strength, posture, and shoulder stability:

Age: Infant

  • Simply sitting your 2+ month old infant in supported sitting on the stability ball will help his posture.
  • Placing your 2-8 month old on their tummy on the ball. TLittle girl rolling on a balance ballhis is a bit more challenging then pure tummy time as they have to push up through their arms on a cushy surface, helping build strong back and shoulder muscles.
  • At 4+ months, you can lean the ball/baby to the left side and watch your infant “right” their body up toward the middle. Practice to both sides. This will help their muscles on the sides of their trunk that are important for crawling.

Age: 1 year-5 years

  • Bouncing your child up and down gently on a ball will help both their core strength and vestibular system.
  • Bouncing the ball back and forth by lifting it above your head while keeping your and your child’s tummy muscles tight helps build great core and shoulder strength.
  • 3+ years, have your child practice dribbling the ball for increased hand-eye coordination and motor planning.

Age: 5 years +

  • Sit-ups:With either
    • your child’s hips and knees at a 90 degree angle from each other or
    • holding your child’s feet down, practice crunches to build abdominal strength.
  • Push-ups: With feet on floor and child in a plank position, they can practice push-ups with their hands on the ball. An adult may need to hold the ball stable so it doesn’t move.
  • Practicing chest passes (like in basketball) is great for chest strength, motor planning and overall stability.

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Fun Ways to Improve Core Strength at Home

Children can be very resistant when asked to do “exercise” because it is challenging. The following activities are fun ways to incorporate exercise to encourage improving core strength.

4 Fun Ways to Improve Core Strength at Home:

  1. Have your child lie on their back on the floor, with their knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then have your child lift up their hips and hold it to make a bridge. girl and mom playing game on groundDrive cars or have fish toys swim under the bridge to encourage them to participate. For an easier version, have them rest in between each fish or car. For a more challenging version, have them maintain the bridge until all the fish or cars have gone under the bridge.
  2. Play board games or do puzzles while your child is lying on the floor on their stomach. They can use their elbows/forearms to support them. Your child may not even realize they are “exercising” since they will be distracted by the game.
  3. Challenge your child to travel to and from places in the house using only crab walk, bear walk, or wheel barrel walk. This will incorporate strengthening the core muscles at different times during the day and allows the child a choice of what they would like to do.
  4. Sing “Row row row your boat” while two people are sitting in long sitting and holding hands, one person sits up while the other goes down to the floor on their back.

Adequate core strength is important for establishing a stable base for performing most fine and gross motor activities. These activities will help to build core strength in fun ways for your child!

Stay tuned for ways to encourage core strengthening on the playground!

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