Gross Schechter: 3 Ways Kids Can Get Fit

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Gross Schechter Day School's boys champion soccer team

Three Ways Younger Kids Can Get Fit

by Kevin Weisenberg, Athletic Director, and Joel Faulkner, PE Teacher, Gross Schechter Day School

The preeminent medieval scholar, Rambam wrote, "As long as a person exercises and exerts himself…sickness does not befall him and his strength increases." (Hilchot De’ot 4:1; 4:14-15). It’s no secret that Jewish values underlie and drive everything that we do at Schechter. In the case of physical education, it’s no different. At Schechter, we look to the value of shmirat ha’guf, (guarding one’s body), which serves as the driver for encouraging and promoting exercise, healthy nutrition and stress management in our students’ lives. Here are three ways you can apply shmirat ha’guf with your children.

Try a variety of organized sports.

We believe that all children can improve their skills, conditioning, endurance, strength and agility. At Schechter, students learn about and participate in all major sports. This ensures skill development and engagement through variety, while facilitating broad exposure to various sports to pique interest for future participation in competitive athletics. If organized sports aren't available through your school, look to your town's recreation programs. Don't forget to research neighboring cities' recreation department offerings if yours doesn't meet your needs. There are also many private club teams and for-profit sports companies that run programs all year round. Even younger kids can benefit from structured practices and skill drills, and kids should try many sports before they focus on a favorite.

Redefine the idea of "sport."

Not every kid will love football, soccer, or basketball. Fortunately, there are many other ways to move, including strength training, ice skating, dance lessons and yoga. You'd be surprised at the variety of multi-sport and fitness programs available for children in grades K-5. For example, in middle school, Schechter currently offers ultimate frisbee as a competitive team sport, and many gyms, including the JCC, offer training programs for younger people. Private teachers and gyms will have qualified staff people who understand appropriate limits for young athletes, and the best instructors motivate kids by making it fun to sweat. Drop in to observe a class or get a free intro lesson if you're not sure about a program.

Make sport a family affair.

What if your child would rather play video games than workout? If it's challenging to get your child interested in physical activity, then try making it an activity you share together. Take a family walk in a metropark or a mall. Invite your children to own active chores like yard work or walking the dog. You can even plan to visit the gym as a family; many gyms will have equipment for smaller people. There are even motion-activated exercise video games that let the most dedicated couch potatoes enjoy a vigorous workout. The point is, it doesn't have to be structured or expensive to count as exercise.

Studies show that physical activity improves circulation, increases blood flow to the brain and raises endorphin levels. This all reduces stress, improves temperament and calms children. It can even enhance academic performance by stimulating brain function. We know exercise is important, and at Schechter, we incorporate the value of shmirat haguf with PE classes four days per week. In 2016, look for ways to embody this value with your kids, both big and small. If you’re interested in more information, please email kweisenberg@grossschechter.org.

Gross Schechter Day School's girls champion basketball team

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