An activity feature, which has worked with children and adults alike, is the social aspect. Programs which have employed peer participation have proven the most successful. So, each child matched with a peer is more likely to persevere. This could also be a parent or caretaker. The peer not only models the appropriate activity and gives encouragement, but may also be used to keep track of things [eg. count repetitions; monitor breathing or even pulse rate].
With any aerobic activity the challenge is to keep it interesting, so that the child will stick with it. Running around a track does not meet this challenge. Many programs employ a circuit-type organization, in which jogging is interspersed with other gross motor activities, such as shooting baskets or throwing balls. Clear goal orientation also helps. Have the child go out to a distant target space and back, rather than round and round.
Another technique "interval running" has been applied both in training and in measurement. In this procedure, children are given a set number of seconds to cross the gym; they wait for a signal and then recross before the signal sounds again. In this way, children may also better learn how to pace themselves for endurance work.
The run/walk has become the favored mode of aerobic work, primarily for its low cost, low skill demands, and ease in measuring work. Differing intensity levels, allowing some recovery while still moving is an effective technique for increasing work potential. If walking is required, consider "power walking", a movement with large strides and exaggerated arm swings.
Activities to address body composition concerns have already been described. The key here is in breaking old habits which led to overweight. Motivation follows keeping track of how much has been eaten and how much exercise is done each day. Charting weight changes from week-to-week, measuring at the same time of day and with the same amount of clothing may be useful. Charts and posters should be visible and attended to daily.
When we think of strength training, we typically think of weight lifting, but many other forms of resistance training are available. Research cautions against growing children engaging in high intensity overhead weight lifting, in which the unsupported spine takes the weight. Beyond that, most movements are generally appropriate and will develop strength - against greater resistance will do it faster. If weights or resistance machines are not available, milk bottles filled to various weights or sand-filled duct-taped cans may be substituted. Thera-bands are elastic bands, specifically designed for resistance training and easily hooked on a hand or foot [contact Flaghouse catalog at Flaghouse.com for more information]
Common useful exercises for upper body strength include pushups, pullups biceps curls and triceps extensions. Resistance [intensity] can be lessened by modifying the movement. Pushups, for example can be performed against a wall, standing arms' length away or on the floor, keeping the knees on the floor and raising only the hips and upper-body. Pullups can be performed lying on the floor and pulling the chin up to a low horizontal bar or chair bottom - not precisely the pullup motion - or on a pullup bar perform "letdowns", in which the child is assisted to a pulled up position and lets himself down as slowly as possible.
All strength-training exercises may be performed against less resistance for longer sets to develop muscular endurance. The primary concern of fitness professionals here is abdominal strength and endurance. "Situps" is the most easily recognized form of exercise for this. Many different versions of the situp have been proposed to reduce possible strain on the lower back from improper technique. All involve lying on the back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Crunches involve only raising the shoulder-blades, while curlups are performed as a complete situp [touching elbows to the thighs] but never actually laying the upper body flat. Leg lifts [single-leg or double] may be substituted. These may also be performed in a chair or with knees bent [low intensity] or straightened [higher].
The sit & reach [single-leg] is the most common health-related stretch. However, all joints may be stretched in all available directions during warm-ups to prepare the body for movement:
neck - front, back, side-to-side, twist ["neck circles" are not recommended];
shoulders - flexion [forward], extension [back], adduction [across the body], abduction [away to the side], etc.;
trunk - forward, back, side-to-side, twist; hips - forward, back, abduction [feet apart, bend forward];
knees - flexion; and even the ankles and wrists.