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Healthy You

Summer Exercise and Fitness Safety for Kids & Teens

July 10, 2013 11:59 AM with Dr. Adam Bennett

Summer vacation is the perfect time to encourage children to be active both in mind and body. For kids new to exercise and sports, implementing a healthy routine of physical activity during summer break is a great way to get a jump-start on a healthier school year. For kids who participate in sports camps and daily sports practices during vacation, it’s important to keep that routine safe and injury-free by paying close attention to any aches and pains that might arise. Adam Bennett, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, will answer your questions on exercise safety and injury prevention and recovery for kids. What activities are safe for children and teenagers? How much is too much during practice? When do you keep your child off the field? Submit your questions early.

Brenna (Moderator) - 11:59 AM:
Our online chat with Dr. Bennett will begin shortly. You can submit questions at any point during the chat.

  Tracy (Northbrook, IL) - 12:03 PM:
My 8 year old son is interesting in running, and we are working towards a 5K, using a program with stretching (before/after) and 3 runs/wk. Got real running shoes and a water bottle. Anything to watch out for to prevent injury?
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
First of all good for you and your son taking up a healthy life style. Soreness that resolves after a day or two is common. However, pain that seems to be getting worse with each run may be a sign of an overuse injury. Any swelling of joints, catching or locking might also indicate a more serious injury. Running with these symptoms would be a bad idea. To prevent injury a day of rest in between runs is wise as well as trying some biking or swimming to cross train. Good luck!

  Patti (Tinley Park, IL) - 12:07 PM:
How much water should a child 11-13 yo drink during summer months with exercise...also is water better than electrolyte replacement fluid?
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
In general, athletes need to be very careful to avoid getting dehydrated over the summer. Some easy ways to avoid dehydration is to measure weight before and after exercise, especially during two-a-days. Athletes need to make sure they have recovered their preactivity weight. If they have not, they might be dehydrated. Athletes should also be told to look at the color of their urine. As long as it's the color of lemonade or clearer they are unlikely to be dehydrated. Although water is fine for exercise lasting 20 minutes or less, supplementation with water, electrolytes and sugar is essencial for optimal performance and recovery when exercising for longer than 20 minutes, especially if the exercise involves intense exertion.

  Lisa (Sycamore, Il) - 12:14 PM:
What is the best way to motivate my 10 year old daughter who eschews exercise for passive activities like reading and drawing. I have tried going on bike rides, and introducing her to other activities. I exercise 4 x's a week, so I'm modeling the behavior. I haven't gotten on her too much, but she is becoming slightly overweight, and I don't want it to get out of hand. She also realizes she is overweight, and she gets down about it from time to time as well. Any suggestions would be appreciated
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
Getting kids to exercise is often a tough challenge. Having your child choose a sport, no matter how obscure, may help encourage them to stay active. Trying everything from fencing to yoga to bowling is worth a try. Other parents have had success by allowing their inactive kids to earn TV or video game time by spending time exercising. That said, most kids like to do what their friends do, so finding friends who like to be active may be another solution. Lastly, good for you for exercising regularly and being a good example for all of us.

  Nadine (Chi) - 12:22 PM:
My daughter is a high school track athlete and she has stopped her periods. Is this normal? Is there a way to get them started again without reducing her training? Is this something that could affect her health now/eventually?
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
If your daughter has had regular periods and now has stopped having regular periods because she is exercising too much she may be at risk for more serious medical conditions. Specifically, if her caloric intake is not sufficient enough to meet her bodies basic nutritional requirements she may start losing bone density. This could lead to stress fractures and even to diminished bone density that may never normalize. She would likely benefit from consulting with a sports nutritionist to ensure she is eating enough to meet her daily caloric requirements.

  Helen (Chicago) - 12:30 PM:
My son is obese. He is 12. Is it safe for him leap into an exercise regimen or should he make a more gradual transition? I want him to get the exercise he needs without putting him at risk for injury.
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
Definitely error on the side of a gradual transition. Kids of all shapes and sizes who have not exercised regularly are at risk for overuse injuries if they rush into activity too quickly. Exercising every other day is a way to ensure muscle, tendon and bone recovery and to avoid injury. Altering the type of activity would also be helpful. An example of altering would be 1 day of swimming then basketball and then biking.

  Becki (Highland Park) - 12:38 PM:
Is it okay for my 10 year old daughter to lift weights? We have a weight system at home and I’d like the family to start exercising together and this seems like a good quick way to start. Is there anything she shouldn’t do?
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
Light weights are likely okay for a 10 year old. Keep in mind kids your daughters age have growth plates which aren't as strong as adult bones. As such, heavy lifting might irritate the growth plates and cause pain. Activities such as jumping jacks, push-ups and sit-ups are likely to be very safe and will still ensure a good work out.

  Malcolm (Oak Park) - 12:45 PM:
My son is very active athlete basketball and track. Lots of practices after school and then active at school and at home on the weekends. He’s already developed tendonitis in his knees. No stress fractures yet. Should he avoid training during this downtime of the summer? Or are there exercises he can do that would keep him in good condition while his legs and knees a rest?

Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore) - 12:50 PM:
In response to Malcom, Over use injuries can be a real problem in children who play multiple sports during the same season. Is season dedicated days off from activity will help avoid injury. In the summer regular exercise that is similar to the sports your child plays may help avoid over use injuries once their season starts up again. If he is injured during season, physcial therapy may be another option for him.

Brenna (Moderator) - 12:50 PM:
There are 10 minutes left in this chat. Please submit your final questions.

  Navid (Glenview) - 12:52 PM:
My 15 yr old wants to run a marathon. Is that safe for a teenager?
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
It might be safe for your teenager to run a marathon. If she is comfortable running long distances, she has no pain, she has days off to recover and she can gradullay increase her mileage with a supervised running program, then it is likely safe for her to participate in a marathon. Keep in mind however, a marathon is an intense endeavor which puts the body through unnatural stress. As such, a 10k or even a half marathon may a good alternative.

  Taylor (Wilmette) - 12:57 PM:
My son plays soccer. He has practices in the morning for about 2 hours and then afternoon practice as well. Are these 2 a days safe? Is that too much?
Dr. Adam Bennett (NorthShore)
This is not an ideal schedule to avoid over use injuries and dehydration. That said, if your son is pain free and shows no signs of dehydration, this may be a safe schedule for him and his teammates. Most coaches are knowledgable about proper conditioning and training programs and choose a program that gets their players fit without causing harm.

Brenna (Moderator) - 1:02 PM:
Thank you everyone for your wonderful participation in today's chat. Please join us for our next online chat on July 25th - Massage Therapy for Pain Management. A transcript of this chat will be made available shortly.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.