Many families are struggling to keep fit, especially with jobs and schoolwork increasingly taking place on screens at home. Because of physical distancing requirements, there aren’t as many opportunities for school team sports, and kids doing virtual learning aren’t getting PE classes at school. Think about how a brief walk to the school bus stop a few streets over and even walking between classes counts as daily exercise. Going from your bedroom to your computer hardly comes close as a substitute!
The need to counter the harmful trends of “too much sitting” and not enough active play and exercise becomes even more urgent when you consider that 20 percent of children and teens already were obese before the COVID-19 pandemic started, as reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Now, virtual school and work have upended regular bedtimes, disrupted mealtimes and increased stress, all of which are taking their toll on children’s health.
How Much Exercise Do Kids Need?
Without school recess and sports, many parents may be unsure how much activity kids need to stay healthy. Children ages 6 to 17 should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And for more health benefits, there should be variety in activities. Three days a week, that hour of exercise should include activities such as running or jumping to build bone strength. On three other days, kids should focus on building muscles with activities such as climbing or doing push-ups.
Get the Whole Family Involved
If children aren’t getting enough movement, parents and other adult family members probably aren’t, either. Adults may have gained weight as well. Families should tackle fitness goals together. This is where the creativity and fun come in.
As a family, aim to do something physical at least three to four times a week for at least a half-hour, with a variety of activities.
10 Creative Ways To Keep Kids Active
Go for a family walk, bike ride or roller skate.
Play in the yard, doing sprints or climbing trees.
Put up a basketball hoop in the driveway.
Use stationary bikes and treadmills when the weather isn’t good.
Do a home improvement project together: Paint a bedroom wall, repurpose old furniture or plant a garden.
Join a local community swimming pool and plan your visits for when the pool is not crowded.
Set up a scavenger hunt in the yard or do a nature scavenger hunt on a park trail, spotting and gathering leaves, stones and wildflowers. Remember, parents and caregivers can — and should! — participate.
Set up an obstacle course in the yard or on the sidewalk using common household items.
Play classic sidewalk games, such as skipping rope or hopscotch.
Find a safe part of the neighborhood where kids might kick a soccer ball, play catch or toss a football.
Remember to follow public health guidelines about maintaining physical distance and wearing masks when appropriate.
Benefits of Family Fitness
Cardiovascular exercise, flexibility and weight training are all important for your child, but when the whole family participates, everyone benefits. Regular physical activity doesn’t just help with weight loss, but improves mood, reduces stress, strengthens muscles and bones, cuts the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and boosts overall energy levels. It also can improve brain function, protect memory and thinking skills, and help with relaxation and quality of sleep.
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