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IAFC 2022 Session Highlight:  Motivational Fitness For Kids
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Motivational Fitness For Kids

By Gina Bastidas

IAFC 2022 Session: Design fun aquatic programming with a purpose to entice kids to want to get moving.  The secret agenda is to prevent childhood obesity, but no need to tell them. Working in a controlled environment with simple training tools encourages success.

We place a lot of focus on exercise programming for our adult clients and participants, but do we take time to consider the developmental years?  According to systematic review and meta-analysis (Simmonds et al. 2016) showed that obese children and adolescents were approximately five times more likely to be obese as adults.  There are several possible causes for obesity, including genetics and lifestyle (diet, physical activity, home environment, developmental factors).  The rate of obesity among children and adolescents in the US has nearly tripled since the 1970s (Fryar et al. 2018).

The sedentary, modern, “pandemic” world has been keeping our children inside and away nature and has limited physical activity.  As fitness professionals, we need to consider ways to offer children enjoyable options to develop and maintain a healthy relationship between fat and muscle.  If we have access to a pool, we can help them learn to love working out, maybe without even realizing they are exercising! 

There are many ideas for working with children in the pool to create lasting positive results in health and safety.  Here are a few tips that I have found to be effective:

  • If the water temperature is the appropriate range, a long warm-up is not required.  Maybe start by having them run to their spot in the water and performing simple movements.
  • Comfort and safety are key to success.  Splashing is a normal occurrence in the pool, but we want to prevent someone from becoming upset if they are splashed.  For those new to the water, or possibly hesitant/fearful, a flotation belt can be a good option.
  • Don't include too many “exercises; keep it simple.
  • There must be structure in a children’s program, but let it flow!  Sometimes we have something in mind; then we realize that our class is a little unpredictable.  Always have a “Plan B”.
  • Ages 6 to 9:
    • Consider designing class around a story.  For example, if using music, perform certain moves with music cues.  If music is not an option (or as an alternative training technique), use a specific sound to give “surprise cues” to perform a specific movement. 
    • The use of equipment gives the idea of “playing” instead of exercising.
  • Ages 10 to 12 (a very important age before the teenager years):
    • Typically, they are a little more competitive.  Groups or teams add interest and challenge.  You might start with boys against girls and mix teams at the end.  Use equipment to maintain necessary spacing, increase workload, and assist with “winning” a game.


These are few ideas to expand your pool’s reach to more programming for children.   Join me at IAFC 2022 to learn more about this amazing group who will flourish when introduced to creative aquatic programming.


Fryar, C.D., M.D. Carroll, and C.L. Ogden. 2018. Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years: United States, 1963-1965 through 2015-2016. Health E-Stats. September 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_child_15_16/obesity_child_15_16.htm.

Simmonds, M., A. Llewellyn, C.G. Owen, and N. Woolacott. 2016. Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2016 Feb;17(2):95-107. doi: 10.1111/obr.12334. Epub 2015 Dec 23. PMID: 26696565.


Gina Bastidas, with more than 20 years of experience in fitness, is an AEA Aquatic Training Specialist and Hydrorider Trainer in Mexico, an aquatic personal trainer, and is certified in Pilates and spinning.  Gina taught the first AEA certifications in Spanish in Argentina and Costa Rica and has organized international aquafitness congresses in Mexico for more than ten years. Committed to keeping aquatic education in Mexico affordable to instructors.  (IG: @aquafitness_mexico, fb AquaAeaMexico)

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