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Keeping Kids Active & Fit during COVID-19

Keeping Kids Active & Fit during COVID-19

by John Senft, NASM-CPT, YES, NBATA-CELeave a Comment

COVID-19 has taken our kids out of school, halted sports and shut down parks. Working parents and caregivers have been challenged to juggle this new life as homeschoolers as well as coaches.

I live in Chicago with two boys – 6 and 2. If you live here, you understand that Chicago weather is inconsistent – 72 degrees one day and 52 degrees the next. Sunshine, then rain for two days straight. Needless to say, getting my boys outside can be challenging. My wife and I both work, so I know all too well how overwhelming this time can be for all of us. As a Fitness Specialist and Youth Exercise Specialist with Athletico Physical Therapy, I’ve used this time to find new and creative ways to keep my boys moving. Here are some tips to keep your kids active and healthy during the pandemic.

Make an Exercise Schedule for Your Kids

Create a fitness schedule that allows for some flexibility. Kids, like adults, like to know what to expect in their day. They’re used to the routine of going to school, talking with friends, learning from teachers and attending their respective classes. When the pandemic hit, that all came to a halt. Daily schedules were disrupted and everyone’s routines ended. Setting up a daily schedule can allot time where it is needed, and give everyone their sense of routine back. In fact, family routines can contribute to both social and emotional advancement in children.

3 Benefits of Physical Activity for Children

At a minimum, kids need 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. Here are some of the major benefits of physical activity for children:

  1. Increases bone health
  2. Lowers body fat, reducing the tendencies for chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes.
  3. Strengthens muscles and increases cardiovascular health. This can be achieved with aerobic exercise routines.

Exercises by Age Groups

Keep in mind, when it comes to youth fitness not all age groups will be doing the same exercises. Here’s a breakdown of the types of exercises by age.

  • Toddler to Early Childhood:
    • Balance, simple sport skills, and simple agility are key exercises for this age group. Balance exercises can include standing on one leg throwing a ball or standing on a pillow balancing on one leg.
    • Simple sport skills like dribbling a basketball or soccer ball, picking up a rolling baseball/softball (I use a tennis ball for kids 5-under), or throwing a baseball or football. Simple agility can include cone drills where you run, shuffle and backpedal from cone to cone. Remember to keep it fun, you can add in animals to peak their interest. Frog Jumps, bar crawls, Crab walks, Inch worms, Flamingo Stance yes, believe it or not these are real exercises.
  • Elementary: This age group should focus on sport skills, coordination, nutrition and some light body weight movements. You can increase the difficulty in some of the previously mentioned drills.
    • Sport skills, basketball or soccer dribbling from side to side, zigzag around cones, dribble with both hands. You can use a baseball/softball to catch pop flies hit from a pitch.
    • Coordination is a fancy way of saying body control, yet very valuable to this age group. There is less likelihood of injury as the child is likely to have appropriate postural responses when needed (e.g. putting hands out to protect themselves when they fall of their bike). The physical attributes of balance and coordination also allow appropriate posture for table top tasks and subsequent success at fine motor tasks and allows for involvement in sports.1 Coordination exercises can include run jump run, shuffle jump shuffle back, light agility ladderscone drills as above but add in some obstacles like small hurdles, more cones or items to catch as they move. A fun way to build coordination is by tossing three whiffle balls into the air (each a different color) and yell out what color they should catch.
    • This is also a good age to reinforce good eating habits.
  • Middle school and older: This is where I get asked the most “When can children start lifting weights?”
    • In my opinion, middle school, 7th to 8th grade can lift weights under the direct supervision of a Trainer, Coach, or Teacher Certified in training the youth.
    • At this age, a child can start to hone in on their sports skills. Shooting, hitting, running, 3-cone shuttle drill, sprint jog cone drill, dribbling cone drills, agility ladders, small hurdles are all activities these kids can do.
    • At this age you can also start to set goals. Try something simple like counting pushups or squats.

To keep your kids moving, here are a few fun activities to try at home!

Island Hopping

Secure different colored paper to the ground. Make a game board spinner with all your colors. Designate each color a different exercise. Get a pair of dice as this will determine the amount of reps. Next, use the spinner to determine the color/exercise. The next time you spin, add a hop to the next color/exercise. If you do not have dice, you can use a deck of cards. Face cards are 12 reps and Aces are wild where you can draw again and add 2 reps.

Musical Fitness Chairs

Assign each chair an exercise (i.e. squats, pushups, lunges, single leg hops, jumping jacks) and pick the number of times or reps you will do that exercise. Pick the number of reps everyone feels comfortable with as these will be the reps for every exercise. Play the music and have your kids run or hop around the perimeter of the chairs. Once the music stops, whichever exercise you land on is the one to do. Keep repeating until everyone has done each exercise 3-4 times.

I hope this has been helpful in not only finding creative ways to keep your kids moving this summer but also determining what exercises are beneficial for children at different age groups.

John Senft is a strength and conditioning coach as well as a fitness specialist. For at-home workout and fitness inspiration, follow his Instagram or reach out to John.Senft@athletico.com.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:
1. https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/gross-motor-skills/balance-coordination/

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