Do Kids Need Actual Rest Days?
By Nike Training
Being a kid is exhausting in all the best ways. Make sure they’re getting the rest they need.
Kids are bundles of boundless energy. But do they need proper breaks from all that running, jumping and playing to recover? We talked to some industry experts and Nike Master Trainers to find out.
If the human body is extraordinary, the young human body is even more remarkable.
Just think about how your kids can run around seemingly endlessly. Or how they can bounce back from an all-out game of backyard soccer or an hour of jumping on a trampoline as if it never happened. According to recent research published in the journal “Frontiers in Psychology,” children have fatigue-resistant muscles, as well as an innate ability to recover faster than even well-trained endurance athletes do. The potential reason: Because their less-developed bodies typically don’t move as efficiently as ours do, they compensate by using aerobic (oxygen-based) energy for intense exercise. Aerobic energy doesn’t produce the same fatigue-causing lactate that anaerobic energy, the type adults rely on for high-intensity and strength training, releases.
Children have fatigue-resistant muscles, as well as an innate ability to recover faster than even well-trained endurance athletes do.
That doesn’t mean you should push your kids to get after intense activity on days they feel tired. In fact, because kids are typically in tune with—and honest about—how they’re feeling, you should always listen to them and try to meet them where they are with lower-impact movement, says Sue Falsone, a clinical specialist in sports physical therapy and a Nike Performance Council member who specializes in recovery. If they’re too weary to play, for example, you could tell them that they might feel better if they join you for a bike ride around the block. Or invite them to stretch their body like an animal, demoing downward dog or cat-cow poses. The goal is to show them that moving their body, even when they don’t want to, can actually help them feel less worn-out, Falsone says.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that their exhaustion probably isn’t coming from a physical place, says Nike Master Trainer Brian Nunez. “Most kids aren’t going to experience overtraining, but if you’re having them learn and perform new exercises and activities regularly, they can become mentally overloaded. You’re asking for a lot of their focus, which can be draining.”
To avoid that, Nunez recommends helping your kids learn just one new skill each week, such as a squat, and letting them practice exploring that all week. Even if they’re joining you for one of the workouts in our Fitness Adventure with Brian & Bella Nunez program, tell them that their only goal for the week is to get to know that one movement. And that next week, they can focus on becoming best friends with lunges or planks. Of course, you’ll still want to revisit exercises with them over time. Practice is practice, and movement is a lifelong journey, Nunez says.
“Let them choose the activity, as if they were deciding which game to jump in on at recess.”
Brian Nunez, Nike Master Trainer
Another pro tip for when they’re feeling mental fatigue: Alternate days of more intensive, structured activity (read: a workout) with something that feels like sheer play, says Nunez. “Let them choose the activity, as if they were deciding which game to jump in on at recess,” he adds. It should be something unstructured, with few rules, like tag. Even a little autonomy can help them feel like their routine is less rigid, which reinforces movement as exactly what it should be: so fun, they don’t want to take a break from it.