Every January, many Americans have one thing in common: a commitment to exercise more in the new year. As adults, it is difficult for many of us to find time to stay in shape between working and taking care of our families. Many children, on the other hand, easily get the exercise they need during the warmer months, between swimming, participating in team sports and playing in the backyard during the long summer days. But for some children, particularly those who don’t participate in an indoor sport like basketball or hockey, it can be tempting to spend the winter months curled up on the couch. It is important for children of all ages to stay active, and making exercise a way of life for the whole family will make it feel less like a chore and more like a natural part of your schedule.
Studies have shown that yoga improves balance, strength, endurance and aerobic capacity in children. In addition to the physical benefits, some research has shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children. Bloom Yoga in Fair Lawn (www.bloomyoganj.com) offers a variety of yoga and Pilates classes for adults as well as classes and programs for children and families. They have yoga classes for children of all ages, from toddlers through tweens. On Sunday, January 22, there is a Frozen-themed family yoga workshop geared for children ages 5 to 10 with an adult companion. Participants will enjoy a Frozen “yoga adventure” with storytelling, music and yoga poses inspired by the movie. Advance registration is required. Shakti Yoga & Living Arts in Maplewood (www.shaktinj.com) also offers a number of classes for children, including yoga storytime for toddlers, kids yoga, and tween and teen classes.
JCC Youth Fitness Centers
For children and teenagers who aren’t interested in team sports but are still looking to exercise, both the Metrowest JCC and the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades offer extensive youth fitness programs. Nearly all of the programs at both facilities are restricted to members; there are membership options for students, young adults and families. Several months ago, the Metrowest JCC introduced the Kids Fitness Center, designed specifically for children ages 9 through 12 (www.jccmetrowest.org). The center is open on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, as well as on weekend mornings (exact hours are available online). During these times, a trainer is always in the fitness center, which features an assortment of equipment including elliptical trainer, fully recumbent bicycle, lateral snowboarder, free weights and more. Members can also take advantage of dance and cycling classes. For an additional fee, the center also offers personal-training sessions and a weight-management program, and will accommodate kids’ small-group training for groups of three to six friends who are looking for sport-specific training, weight management or fitness training. Starting in February, they will also be starting Family Fun Days, which will include family boot camp and family cycling. The Benjamin Bergen Youth Fitness Center at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades (www.jccotp.org) offers open gym time for 6- to 13-year-olds to take advantage of sports and fitness equipment including bicycles, a treadmill, punching bags and conditioning equipment. The fitness center also offers a boot camp class, during which participants move from one exercise to another in a series of different stations combining resistance training and high-intensity aerobics. For an additional fee, there is also personal training, running clinics and performance clinics for a variety of ages, as well as a teen cycling class for 10- to 15-year-olds. (Non-members may also participate in up to four sessions of the cycling class; registration is available online.)
By Rachel Jager