Fitness from 4 to forever

As a personal trainer, I’ve worked with toddlers on up to nonagenarians. The two things we have in common? We all need to work on balance and strength.

4to4ever image

As a personal trainer, I've worked with toddlers on up to nonagenarians. The two things we have in common? We all need to work on balance and strength--it's just how we go about it that's different.  

Remember to consult your doctor before you start any sort of exercise regimen for yourself or your children. 

For children

All about fun

Both of my sons like to exercise, not because I make them, but because they have fun doing it. That's really the key for kids. Play-based games like tag, catch, and relay races are great. We do something called "dad training" where two of us throw footballs and dodgeballs to one person. The activity, which the kids love, develops hand-eye coordination.

Encourage variety

If you want your children to develop athleticism, I recommend they play multiple sports. If they aren't into sports, encourage bike riding, nature walks, dancing, or anything else that keeps them active that they also enjoy doing.

Bodyweight exercises

My 10-year-old recently asked to work out with me. We've been focusing on body weight exercises like chin-ups, pushups, and squats. We have also thrown around a medicine ball. They make soft catch ones that are great for kids. I use a 4 lb. or 6 lb. ball for my younger clients. Before your child starts lifting weights, discuss it with their pediatrician. Working with a professional can also help ensure the child has good form to prevent injury.   

For teens

As children grow into their longer limbs, their coordination can be off. Agility drills like jumping over small hurdles, weaving between cones, and even balancing on one leg are all effective ways to improve coordination. Weightlifting can help improve strength but, again, form is important. Stick with lower weights while learning the movements.  

For adults


I'm a big proponent of weightlifting. As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density, but weight training can help counter those losses.

The warmup

Warming up before lifting can help reduce injury. Stretching is highly debated in training circles. As I've gotten older, I've become a bigger fan of stretching at the end of a workout to lengthen the joints. 

When I warm up my lower body, I bring my knees high up in the air while running and kick my butt as I run. For an upper body warmup, I use a band to stretch out my shoulders. If you google "active warm-up exercises," you'll see many suggestions. 

At end of the workout, I like static stretching, like sitting down and trying to reach my toes. Sitting behind a desk all day is rough on the body, but mixing basic stretches can really help.  

The main event 

After a warm-up of 2-10 minutes depending on your time and needs, it's time to work out! Since everyone has different issues (mine is a nagging shoulder injury), it's important to don't exacerbate the problem. I never work through pain unless I'm with a physical therapist or doctor. You shouldn't either. 

If you are just starting out, keep it simple and either follow along with a video or trainer. I like to work opposing muscles together, like chest and back one day, and biceps and triceps together on another day. I do that for balance--I don't want my chest to be stronger than my back or vice versa. If you are short on time, a full body routine works well, too.  

Mix it up

Moving in different ways as you age is key. The adage, "use it or lose it" applies to the body. Incorporating different types of workouts like dancing one day, and tennis another, is a great longevity approach, because you use different muscles and joints. This can be as simple as crawling or sitting on the floor and standing up for five minutes. If all you do is run, it might lead to knee or back issues. When you google mobility exercises, you'll see a million examples of how to warm up as well as how to move differently.   

A balancing act

Coordination work should be a constant at every age to help prevent falls. I do the same types of balance drills with younger and older clients. Make sure you have something to hold onto so when you start to wobble, you can prevent a fall.

Listen to your body

The last thing I want to leave you with--listen to your body. Working through pain or pushing until you're sick is not a long-term strategy. Start slow and every week challenge yourself a little differently.  

Ron Krit--the President of the fitness company Fit With Krit--is a Wellness Writer for Jewish Chicago: The JUF Magazine. Krit is also JUF's Assistant Vice President of Endowment Development

"Working through pain or pushing until you're sick is not a long-term strategy. Start slow and every week challenge yourself a little differently. "

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