Written by Elisa Withers Director APPI Clinics, Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor
We all know the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Fresh air, exercise, keeping fit and healthy eating is high on our agenda. But unfortunately, the health of our children is being compromised by today’s culture of convenience – sugary fast foods, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, declines in everyday physical activity and alarmingly, a steady rise in childhood obesity (10.1% of reception age children (age 4-5) were obese in 2021/22, with a further 12.1% being overweight. At age 10-11 (year 6), 23.4% were obese and 14.3% overweight*).
As a Physiotherapist, Pilates Instructor, owner of Pilates studios, and a mother of five children, I feel the responsibility to look after our children’s health. It’s up to us, to start them on the right pathway – this is the one I feel they adopt for life.
Exercise and keeping fit are important for all ages, but for teens who aren’t into team sports or going to the gym, Pilates is a great alternative form of exercise to do.
At APPI, we have created classes for teens (11 to 16 years old) and children* (6 to 11 years old). Additionally, we welcome friends and sibling pairs to join up for a specially tailored kids or teens duet. * we’re currently taking a wait list for children’s classes and look to open these according to demand.
How is exercise beneficial for our children and teens?
Regular physical activity helps your child develop in a range of ways. Not only does it help their physical health, but it also helps improve their brain function and emotional wellbeing.
- Physical activity keeps the body strong and healthy and can improve mental health by decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain and loneliness.
- Physical activity can also improve focus, school performance, sleep and energy levels.
- Children who participate in regular physical activity enjoy improved relationships and a more positive body image.
How Can Pilates Be Beneficial For Children and Teens?
There are many ways in which Pilates can be a beneficial form of exercise specifically for our children and teens.
Increasing amounts of time spent on devices and studying on top of a developing musculoskeletal system, growth spurts, self-conscious habits all lead to slouched postures.
Pilates tackles this threefold. Firstly, through subtle yet continuous postural cueing to correct and subconsciously build body awareness of healthy postures. Secondly, by targeting the deep stability muscles of the spine and core joints to provide crucial joint support to sustain better postures. Thirdly, by building general strength and endurance of the large muscles of the body to support better upright postures.
Muscular and neurological development occurs at different times and rates for our children. Pilates, through its movement choreography, allows children and teens to explore and develop greater body awareness and co-ordination. Once basic movements patterns are established, Pilates continually varies and adapts its choreography to continually develop new movement pathways.
Improved body image (self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence)
Millions of teenagers in Britain worry about their body image. In fact, according to new data almost one-third (31%) of British teenagers aged between 13 – 19 felt ashamed in relation to their body image*.
When children and teens see how fun it is to be able to move, stretch, balance and jump they are more likely to want to continue enjoying being active throughout their life. Seeing and appreciating what their body can do, rather than how it looks, is a great way for a child to build a positive body image and self-esteem.
The desire to look lean or muscular often becomes stronger during the pre-teen and teen years among both boys and girls. Our children are less likely to develop unhealthy habits to reach a so-called physical ideal if they have a healthy perception of what ‘looking good’ means, and understand that it comes from healthy, balanced habits.
Experts say physical activity allows children to have a better outlook on life by building confidence, managing anxiety and depression, and increasing self-esteem and cognitive skills. “Feel-good” chemicals in the brain, known as endorphins, are released by the brain during physical activity and help to improve mood, energy levels and even sleep. Together, these positive effects help to improve self-confidence and resilience.
Classes often incorporate simple breathing exercise at the end of a a session which can teach teens useful ways of relaxing the body and mind.
How Can Teens Get Started With Pilates?
If your child or teen is interested in trying Pilates, then the best first step is to book in for our Pilates assessment. This is a 60 minute session where our Pilates instructor will meet your child to talk about their exercise background, specific Pilates goals and check tat they are best suited for a group exercise class. The instructor will then prepare your child for class by showing them the basics of how the reformer works. A few essential movements will be taught on and off the reformer to practice before class so that they can start to become familiar the key concepts and feel ready for class.
More about our kids and teens classes.
Our Pilates for kids (ages 6 – 11 years) classes start with matwork. We combine Pilates mat movements with small equipment such as the bands, balls and circles. We have 4 – 6 children in a kids class so that we can focus on form, function specific to the children and of course fun! Classes run for 45 minutes and children are given a few key exercises that they can practice at home.
Our Pilates for teens (ages 12 – 16) classes are on the Pilates reformer. This dynamic piece of Pilates equipment trains movement in motion in different positions with differing resistances. As always, our instructors focus on accuracy, understanding and specificity in a positive and encouraging environment so that all teens feel accomplished and empowered by their experience.
*This data is gathered as part of the National Child Measurement Programme and published by NHS Digital.1
* British survey published by the Mental Health Foundation. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/about-us/news/millions-teenagers-worry-about-body-image-and-identify-social-media-key-cause-new-survey-mental