In this section
These short activities and engaging mini-lessons are a great way for families to learn about the importance of getting physical activity each and every day.
Kids and physical activity
Kids and exercise
It's important to remember that when it comes to kids, building healthy habits early on is important.
Small changes at home can have an impact on physical activity. Making equipment available and accessible helps encourage kids to use it. Even things like taking the stairs instead of an escalator and getting in extra steps by parking further away can have an impact on kids.
The biggest influence is parents!
Benefits of physical activity
With regular exercise, general mood and outlook on life can be improved as well.
Elements of fitness
There are three elements of fitness: endurance, strength and flexibility.
- Endurance involves regular aerobic activity, which means that the heart is beating at a fast rate and breathing speeds up as well. Aerobic activity leads to a stronger heart.
- Strength can involve weighted objects or bands, but it doesn’t have to since a person’s body weight can be enough to improve strength. Body weight exercises include things like doing crunches and pushups to improve muscle strength.
- Flexibility involves stretching exercises. It helps muscles and joints to bend and move more easily through the range of motion.
The importance of stretching and balance for kids
Stretching helps to prevent tears or pulled muscles and it can also help keep a child’s joints healthy. It’s important to warm up before stretching so muscles aren’t cold and are more pliable. After a workout, stretching can help speed the recovery of muscles and help to avoid tightness.
Working on balance helps with many everyday activities and can help prevent falls, which is one of the most common causes of injuries for kids.
Balance is used during static, or still, and dynamic, or moving, activities. Having good balance can help with the development of coordination.
Recommended amounts of physical activity
Encouraging a variety of exercise
Having kids join teams or take classes through a local recreation department is a great way to introduce new activities to them.
Motivating kids to be active
- Pick activities that are right for the child’s age and development level. If something is too easy, kids may get bored or they may become frustrated if the activity is too difficult.
- Give them a lot of opportunities to be active. Make it easy for kids to be physically active by taking them to playgrounds or parks.
- Keep things fun. If kids aren’t enjoying what they’re doing, they will lose interest and they won’t do it for long.
Doing activities as a family
Winter activity recommendations
Safety during winter activities looks a bit different than it does when it’s warm out, but there are some similarities. Layers to stay warm are important so kids can add or remove layers as temperatures change. Hats and gloves are important too!
Helmets should be worn for skiing and snowboarding and may be considered for sledding or skating. Sunscreen and sunglasses should also be used in winter, as the snow reflects sun and you can still get sunburn.
Indoor activities for colder months
Indoor activities you can do at home
At home, you can do things like set up obstacle courses, have indoor relay races or dance parties and you can set up your own contests or activity stations.
Play balloon volleyball by using painter’s tape to create a net in a hallway. Use a balloon and see how many times you can volley the balloon over the net.
Create an indoor obstacle course by making a path through the house. Complete the circuit in a certain number of times and see how fast the kids can complete it.
Obstacles might include:
- Army crawl under the table or make it into a tunnel by adding a blanket or sheet
- Zigzag through chairs
- Climb over a mountain of pillows
- Log roll across the living room
- Run stairs
Alternatives to playing sports
Kids and sports
The importance of warming up and cooling down
Warm up for 5 – 10 minutes to prepare for physical activity.
Warming up for 5-10 minutes is important to prepare physically and mentally for physical activity.
Warming up helps to:
- Increase heart rate
- Boost nutrients and oxygen getting to muscles
- Prepare the body for a workout
Stretching is an important part of warming up.
- Dynamic stretching is best for warming up whereas static stretching is better for cooling down.
Cooling down for 5-10 minutes will help your body recover from a workout:
- Light aerobic activity and stretching are good ways to cool down.
Cooling down helps to:
- Slow down heart rate
- Return breathing to normal
- Decrease soreness
- Relax the muscles
How to help prevent sport injuries
Using the right equipment is important. Things like helmets, proper shoes, mouth guards and eye protection can help kids stay safe.
Safe surfaces can help prevent injuries. Fields can have hidden holes or ruts, so checking before playing can be helpful. Concrete surfaces for sports that involve running can increase the amount of impact, so try and do these activities on wooden or rubber surfaces.
Warming up and proper stretching can help prevent muscle injuries during sports.
When to start strength training
Strength training (using machines, lifting weights, resistance bands or body weight exercises) can be safe for kids, but there are a few rules to follow:
- Make sure the child is old enough.
- Check with a doctor first.
- Set limits on the amount of strength training.
- Have a trained adult supervise the workouts to make sure they’re doing exercises correctly.
The impact of nutrition for kids in sports
Iron and calcium are especially important for athletes– calcium for strong bones and iron to keep their energy up.
Don’t forget to have them hydrate before, during and after exercise.