By Jenn Casey, Youth Program Director
Whole. Healthy. Youth.That’s WHY.
In my last post, I wrote a little bit about our Youth Program here at CrossFit Kennesaw, and how I hear from our adult members regularly about how they wish they’d had something similar when they were kids..
Our program supports kids (and their parents) by setting them up for a lifetime of success, showing them that movement is FUN, teaching them how to move in ways that are beneficial to them today and in the future.
I’m breaking down the WHY in the next three posts, starting with WHOLE.
What do we mean by WHOLE?
In our Youth Program, we are developing the whole child: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
One of the core tenets of CrossFit is whole body movement. That’s because the movement humans require in our everyday lives is movement of the entire body. We are walking, carrying backpacks, reaching up to get something off a high shelf, squatting down to weed a garden, kneeling to get to eye level with our toddlers, pulling a heavy bag of dog food off of a grocery store shelf.
In CrossFit, the vast majority of the movements we program also involve the entire body. Running, rowing, all kinds of lifting. Even when one area of the body is doing more of the movement, such as in a squat or overhead press, the more stationary parts of the body need to be active, engaged, to support the moving parts.
In our Youth Program, kids learn these whole body movements. We break down the pieces of each movement, reinforce good positions with positive encouragement (more on that in a future post!), help each kid get into the best positions they can on that day. We meet each kid where they are, and help them develop the physical literacy skills that are needed for life.
Research shows that physical activity helps the brain! Movement benefits the mind: improving memory and concentration.
What happens to the brain when you exercise? The brain gets more oxygen, neurotransmitters associated with concentration and memory are released, as well as something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which increases neuron growth and how neurotransmitters are used. In other words, good stuff is going on in the brain when the body is moving.
There is a growing body of research suggesting that kids who get regular physical activity do better in school. We don’t have as much recess as we used to in schools, recess in Cobb County is on the decline, so kids aren’t moving around as much as they used to. If you’re interested in learning more about the exercise-brain connection, check out this short video.
Life can be challenging, and learning how to deal with frustrations, obstacles, and other kinds of roadblocks is a really useful life skill. Working through the process of learning a new skill, whether it’s piano, jump rope, or how to engage your abs in a squat, can be frustrating at times. In our Youth Program, it’s okay to not get something on the first try! In fact, it’s more common for us, adults AND kids, to NOT get something on the first try. We get close, and we have to try again, try to do better, try to improve. We help kids try and try again with kindness, support, empathy, and using fun and humor, too. It’s more important to keep trying consistently over time than to get something just perfectly right.
Additionally, physical activity helps with anxiety and depression, stress management, and all of the things many of us have been dealing with for these past two years of unprecedented worldwide stressors.
“On average, young people who exercise more have lower levels of depression, stress and psychological distress, and higher levels of positive self-image, life satisfaction and psychological well-being .
(Rodriguez-Ayllon, M., et. al., Sports Medicine, Vol. 49, No. 9, 2019)”
The research and science is really clear: regular physical activity is good for humans of all ages and stages of development. It’s never too early (or too late!) to get started developing a lifelong habit of movement.