Physical Activity for Kids: Daily Requirements, Ideas and Benefits

by Samantha Herrera, DPT and Kelsea Brajkovich Schroeder, DPT

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COVID-19 has changed the look of everyday life for families across the globe. With schools closed and recreational activities cancelled, we know many parents may be wondering how to keep their young ones happy and healthy while juggling childcare and working from home. At a time when anxieties may be high and screen time has increased with classes moving online, helping your child stay physically active is key!

Young people require more physical activity than adults. Ideally, toddlers and preschoolers should be active for 3 hours/day and young people ages 5-18 years should accumulate 60 minutes/day of at least moderate intensity activity. Activities should vary from fatiguing the muscles and stressing the bones (jumping, running, pushing, pulling, climbing) to improving motor skills, coordination, and body awareness (yoga, sports, games, dancing). Not only do young people who are more physically active have better cardiovascular fitness, bone health and weight status, but research also shows benefits for mental health. In the short term, young people may experience reduced anxiety and improved mood following a bout of activity and a short bout of activity between periods of school work may improve focus and attention. Looking long term, studies demonstrate improved cognitive function (academic performance, memory) and reduced symptoms of depression in young people who are more physically active.

For ideas on how to keep your kids active, see the below videos for sample warm-up and cool-down activities. These can be performed before and after trying out the ideas listed in the activity calendars, created by SHAPE America. With limited space available indoors, don’t forget the value of dance! Check out the “Music and Motor Skills Songs” playlist on Spotify to keep kids engaged and moving!

Stay tuned for the rest of the blog series, in which we will cover the importance of balance and footwear, ways to promote coordination and bone health and how to teach your kiddo proper form with common exercises.

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Simon Says Dynamic Warm-Up

5 x inch worms

10 x star jumps

5 x “stomp the bugs”

10 x toy soldiers

10 x spiderman stretches

Cool Down:

Calf Stretch (30-60 sec hold each side)

Standing facing a wall or countertop. Place one foot behind the other, hip-width apart. Place the heel of the back foot down onto the ground, keeping the leg straight.

Quadriceps Stretch (30-60 sec hold each side)

Standing with one hand on a wall for balance, use your opposite hand to grab your ankle behind you with your knee bent. Engage your core and gently pull your knee backwards for a stretch down the front of the thigh.

Forward Bend (30-60 sec hold)

Stand with your feet together. Keeping your knees straight, slowly lower the trunk toward the ground, bending at your hips. Reach for your toes with hands.

Butterfly Stretch (30-60 sec hold)

Sit on the ground with your back straight and feet together. Let your knees fall out to the side. Hold onto your feet with your hands and bend forward at your hips. You should feel this stretch in your inner thighs.

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Hip Flexor Stretch (30-60 sec hold each side)

Place your right knee on a soft surface (pillow, foam pad, folded yoga mat) and put your left foot forward, keeping legs hip width apart in a half-kneeling position. Engage your core and glutes and gently shift your hips forward. To add an increased stretch, reach up toward the ceiling with your right arm and bend the trunk to the left.

Email us with any additional questions about physical activity for your kids! (Brentwood Location) (Playa Vista/South Bay Location)

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