“I just wish my children would get off their devices and get outside!” said probably every parent everywhere at some point. Getting enough exercise is as important as good nutrition for the growth and development of healthy kids.
As adults when we think about exercise, we probably envision hitting the gym or engaging in some kind of sport. If your child is into sports – terrific! But it’s not the only way for them to be active.
Exercise for kids doesn’t have to be that formal – simply playing with friends, riding bikes and hanging on monkey bars are all great kids exercise activities.
Benefits of Exercise for Kids
Exercise is important for both physical and mental health, and for social development. It’s a great way to build stronger muscles and bones, maintain a lean body, and even help keep kids healthy with a bit of an immune system boost. Kids who are physically active also tend to do better in school, sleep better and be more resilient.
How Much Kids Exercise Do They Need?
Healthy kids ages 6 to 17 years old should be getting at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity – think heart-pumping activities such as playing tag, shooting hoops or swinging on the swing set. These 60 minutes don’t have to be all at once – playing for 20 minutes at recess plus a 45-minute PE class in one day is a great way to get some exercise for kids.
The type of activity is also important. Kids should be getting their heart pumping of course, but also building their muscles and strengthening their bones. Some kids exercise encompasses all three, like running, jumping rope or playing on playground equipment. A variety of exercise for kids helps make sure all muscle groups are being challenged – plus, it helps prevent boredom and burnout!
Making Physical Activity Fun for Everyone
Not every child is drawn to sports or dance or other activities that naturally challenge their bodies – and that’s OK! Sports are just one way to get your child up and moving, but it’s not the only way. If your child is:
An Avid Social Media Follower: Have them copy those viral dance moves that people are doing on social media. Or record them trying to do a handstand or cartwheel or something active, even if you never post it. Kids love filming and watching videos of themselves.
A Budding Artist: Go on a nature walk to collect flowers, leaves, seashells or rocks – anything they can decorate or use in a collage for an at-home project.
A Voracious Reader: Have them ride their bikes or walk to the local library. Or plan a walk together to the library to read some chapters, then walk home and discuss what you’ve read.
A Homebody: Play indoor parkour on the furniture, or dance to a favorite song. If your children are glued to the TV or device, see if they can hold a plank or do pushups during commercial breaks or ads.
A Social Butterfly: Resign as the family chauffeur and have him walk or ride his bike or scooter or walk to friends’ houses (if it’s safe to do so).
An Animal Lover: Hand the reigns (leash) over to your child and have her walk the dog instead of you. No dog at home? Volunteer at a local shelter to walk dogs together.
A Screens Addict: Try as you might but you still can’t get them away from their screens? Fine – channel those screen powers for good and tune into a kid-friendly yoga class or a dance-along activity on GoNoodle.
You are the best model for your child, so let them see you exercising. Better yet, find an activity the two of you can do together, such as tossing the ball around or washing the car. It’ll be good for both of you to connect and do something good for your bodies, as well as your relationship.
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