Children are naturally active, but too many things are pulling them back to the couch. Video games, smartphones and televisions demand their eyeballs and thumbs – and not much else.
Why is that a problem? Because growing bodies and minds need fuel. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, physical activity lays the foundation for a healthy life by improving cardiorespiratory fitness, building strong bones and muscles, controlling weight, and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Physical activity makes sure your kid can be a kid by lowering the risks of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments that can hold them back from achieving their full potential.
With a few simple tips on how students can stay active, parents can help their children avoid the sedentary trap and get moving.
How Much Exercise Do Students Need?
Sixty minutes a day. That’s the recommended minimum time that children and adolescents should devote to being active every day. And, yes, you can find that hour because it doesn’t have to be one full hour at a time. In fact, children tend to be active in short bursts, so you can encourage activity in intervals that suit your family’s schedule and become part of the family lifestyle.
Just be sure that every week’s physical activity includes, at the minimum:
- Muscle strengthening three days a week. This can be something like climbing or pushups.
- Bone strengthening three days a week. Bones get stronger through jumping and running.
- Aerobic activity most of those 60 minutes every day. Aerobic activity includes running and walking that make the heart beat faster. At least three days a week, that aerobic activity should make them breathe fast and get their hearts pounding.
Children who have been mostly inactive should start slowly, perhaps taking a walk around the block, and gradually build up to more strenuous activity. Activities should be fun and varied, to keep kids engaged and ready to play again the next day.
15 Ways to Stay Active as a Student
There’s no magic formula for how to stay active, during the summer or year-round. It’s important to find the types of activity that your children love, so they’ll want to do them again and again. It doesn’t require a gym membership, and your kid doesn’t have to be athletic. You can make physical activity fun for children of all ages, and help them start a lifetime habit of getting up and going out.
The possibilities are endless. Maybe some of these will suit your child and your family:
- Find a fitness buddy: Kids are more motivated to play if their friends are waiting. Schedule regular get-togethers to run, climb the jungle gym or just have a game of tag.
- Download fitness apps: A bit ironic, certainly, to get kids away from screens by using screens, but children are digital natives. They are motivated by apps that share information, provide encouragement and track achievement. Search for apps that go with your family’s technology and your child’s interests.
- Embark on outdoor adventures: Your state parks and national parks beckon with trails, waterways and the wonders of nature. Go rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding or kayaking. Make it a camping trip, complete with s’mores over a campfire – which might not seem healthy, but it makes memories and rewards your kids for an active day in the forest.
- Host a dance party: Play those favorite songs and dance to the music. Set the stage with a disco ball, and add karaoke microphones so kids can sing along.
- Get wet at a water park: Find a local water park and turn the kids loose to swim, dive, slip and slide. At home, make your own water park with a hose, slide, water balloons and pool.
- Take a day in the park: The playground at your local park is like a gym for little people, with all the equipment they need for climbing, swinging and pullups. For kids, teens and grownups, there are benches for pushup challenges, stairs and hills for climbing, and grassy areas for lunges and squats.
- Prepare for a 5K: Register for a family-friendly 5K and get in shape together. Create a six-week training plan. Make your training runs fun with a family playlist that keeps everyone upbeat and in the mood. Make team T-shirts or costumes for the big day, and when you cross the finish line, celebrate your accomplishment with high-fives and maybe a trip to the nearest ice cream parlor.
- Step by step: Wherever you take the kids, make walking a habit. Park the car at the edge of the lot, instead of by the store door. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Join an intramural team: So your kid was never going to be a soccer star. No worries. Schools, municipalities and faith institutions offer leagues in everything from basketball and baseball to flag football and disc golf.
- Explore yoga: Cat. Cow. Dog. Cobra. Kids love animals, so why not introduce them to the basic, animal-inspired poses of yoga? Yoga for kids promotes stretching, which can prevent injuries. It also teaches kids to be mindful and breathe through stressful situations.
- Tie activity to your child’s interests: Ride bicycles to take the bookworm to the local library. Have the artist take a nature walk to collect leaves and twigs for a collage. Enroll the future martial artist in a karate class.
- Create an obstacle course: Indoors, pile cushions and make blanket forts that kids can crawl through, over and under. Outdoors, set out Hula-Hoops, jump ropes and traffic cones for kids to maneuver around and use.
- Make money: Teenagers probably aren’t interested in indoor obstacle courses. But if they can make a few bucks by washing a neighbor’s car or starting a lawn-care business, now you’re speaking their language.
- Care for a pet: Your child needs activity. So do their pets. Give your child the responsibility to walk the dog and play fetch at regular times every day. As for the cat, suggest your child march in place while dangling a wand, or ask for help when you bring in the bag of kitty litter.
- Stand and deliver: Standing desks aren’t just for adults. Standing desks for kids come in a range of styles and sizes. They are adjustable as kids grow and have places to stash school supplies. One recent study found that children who regularly use standing desks have a lower body mass index. Pedal exercisers that fit snuggly under the desk are great for kids, too.
Keep these other tips in mind for how to keep students active:
- Set a good example by being active yourself.
- Encourage your children in year-round activity. Even when the weather is cold, they can exercise to videos or bounce on the bed.
- Keep activity affordable by watching for student and family discounts to sports venues, buying pre-owned equipment, and enrolling in municipal programs and sports leagues.
- Set goals and offer fun, healthy rewards – maybe a trip to the zoo or a day at the aquarium – when your child has reached them.
- If your child hates exercise, don’t use the word. Activity is whatever they like to do that’s fun and gets them moving.
CCA parents know online learning doesn’t tie their children to computer screens all day. We have required physical education credits, and we encourage our students to move and enjoy physical activity every day. Our hundreds of field trips and family socials, scheduled year-round throughout the state, offer chances for kids to jump at trampoline parks, snowtube down the slopes and explore the wonders of nature. We invite you to reach out to CCA today to learn more about how the online learning experience promotes your child’s physical, personal and academic growth.