In these uncertain times, physical activity is perhaps more important than ever to help kids remain physically and mentally healthy to face each day’s challenges.
Many of us know regular physical activity helps to prevent obesity, heart disease and diabetes, while strengthening the cardiovascular system, increasing flexibility, and building strong bones and muscles.
But, what you may not know is exercise helps kids sleep better, focus at school, build confidence and self-esteem, and diffuse stress.
“Because of the ongoing pandemic, kids aren’t going to school or socializing with friends the way they normally would, so staying fit physically and mentally is important,” said Alisha Kagarise, a physical therapist at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. “Exercising their bodies and minds will help kids feel better and have more energy to handle physical and emotional challenges better.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school-age kids and adolescents need 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week.
So get your kids up and off the couch and get them moving — it’s a matter of their health! Physical activity is the best medicine you can give your kids for a lifetime of health.
“Making physical activity a part of your child’s routine now builds a foundation for a fit lifestyle that can carry them through life,” said Alisha. “Not to mention, physical activity teaches kids discipline and the importance of working hard for positive results.”
It’s easy for kids to remain active when it’s warm outside, but the cold, dark winter months present more of a challenge. So, Alisha offers 13 ways kids can remain active this winter — even amidst an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Snow much fun
- Bundle up in layers and get outside for family hikes in the woods, walking the dog or searching for animal tracks in freshly fallen snow.
- Sled riding, building snowmen and snow forts, shoveling snow or having snowball fights are great ways to get the heart rate up, while having fun.
- Organize a family game of football or soccer in the snow.
- Clear an area of breakables and set up an indoor obstacle course. One idea is to do it by room: Start in the kitchen with mountain climbers, then run to the basement and play hot steps on the stairs, then go to the living room for balance activities, etc. Change it up for variety and use a timer to challenge your kids.
- Prepare an indoor scavenger hunt using ordinary household items. For example, instruct your kids to find something that starts with the letter T or something green or something soft. Again, you can turn it into a competition by using a timer.
- Clear a space and play balloon volleyball over a couch or chair, or a game of “don’t let the balloon hit the floor.”
- Host a dance party or throw a competition with a game of Freeze Dance.
- Turn a board game into an active one. For example, every time you land on a space or roll a certain number you have to touch your toes, do jumping jacks or a 30-second plank. You can also play active games, such as Twister or The Floor is Lava.
- Create a grab jar. Write down exercises on cards (i.e. 15 jumping jacks, 30 crunches, hop on one foot for 30 seconds) and put them in a jar. Then, each family member picks a card out of the jar and everyone has to do it together.
- While watching TV together, make a game of doing exercises during commercials. For instance, do pushups for the first commercial, squats for the second and hold a plank for the third.
- Active video games, such as Just Dance, boxing or soccer, are great for incorporating physical activity and kids won’t mind doing it.
- Vary it up with online fitness or yoga videos for kids. SWORKIT Kids is a free app that’s designed to make moving fun. The app guides kids through fun exercise routines demonstrated by kids themselves.
- Use fitness trackers made for kids so they can set goals for themselves and work to beat them.
Pulling kids away from screen time and motivating them to get active can be tough. If your child resists, try offering options or set up a reward system. See if your kids are willing to try a new activity and do it as a whole family.
“The 2 most important factors in helping kids get active is to role model and make it enjoyable,” said Alisha. “It’s more fun when you’re exercising with someone, and it’s easier to motivate each other when the whole family’s involved. The goal is to instill a love for movement without making it a chore.”
If your child is struggling to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, call Akron Children’s Healthy Active Living program to schedule an appointment and evaluation at 330-543-5673.
Learn about the steps Akron Children’s Hospital is taking to keep you and your family safe during the pandemic.