Engaging in physical activity is an important part of a child’s development and growth and children and young people should be undertaking at least one type of aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise each week.1,2
But most children aren’t interested in working out.
What they’re interested in is having fun and expanding built up energy so as not to get bored or restless.
In this article, you’ll find out
- The importance of exercise for kids
- How to encourage your kids to exercise
- Kids exercise duration
- 6 goof exercises for kids
Why is exercise important for kids?
We all know that exercise is key for keeping us fit and healthy – and the same goes for our little ones! But what are some of the other benefits of exercise for kids?
The NHS states that physical activity benefits kids by:
- Improving their fitness level
- Providing a chance for them to socialise and make friends
- Increasing their concentration
- Improving their academic scores
- Building a stronger heart, bones and muscles
- Encouraging healthy growth and development
- Improving their self esteem
- Lowering their stress levels
- Improving their posture and balance abilities
- Helping them to get a better night’s sleep3
How you should encourage your kids to exercise
For a great way to fit exercise into your kids’ daily routine make the idea of exercising fun and a type of ‘play’ rather than putting emphasis on working out and keeping healthy.
Incorporating movement into games or setting them challenges is a great way for easy exercise that your child will enjoy and benefit from and you can easily join in with.
How long kids should exercise for
With an aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise recommended per day, it can sometimes be difficult to get kids moving.4
Moderate intensity is where your heart rate increases and you’re breathing faster but you can still talk but not sing.5
6 of the best exercises for kids
Here’s a few exercises to try with your children:
Running is an easy and simple form of exercise and a great way to keep children and young people busy.
Kids can run anywhere but open spaces are best and most risk-averse.
If you only have a small space for them to be active in, you can mix up how they run by doing ‘on the spot’ movements.
This can include:
- Fast feet - running on the spot with feet hardly lifting from the ground
- High knees - running on the spot with knees lifted to the chest
- Butt kicks - running on the spot with heels touching or near the buttocks
If you do have the space available such as a garden you can turn running into team sports or games such as relay races, obstacle courses, wheelbarrow races and tag.6
Jumping is another good aerobic exercise that is easy for children to do.
Not only is jumping working the cardiovascular system but it helps to support both muscles and bone health.7
Different types of fun jumps include:
- Skipping – there’s a huge range of different skipping techniques and this can be fun for children to try and master. Start with the basic jump and work up to moves like the criss-cross. If you have multiple children, they can take turns skipping with one long rope.
- Jumping jacks – a great move to improve agility and strength.
- One-foot hops – test their balance and see how many hops can be done on each foot.
A great game involving jumping is hopscotch. You can use chalk or tape to mark out the squares and this can keep kids entertained for a while.
Whether you’re just putting on some fun tunes and dancing in the kitchen or taking them to dance classes multiple times a week, dancing is one of the best exercises for children.
Not only does it help to improve their physical fitness, but it also helps to improve their general wellbeing.
In particular, new research has found that Dance Movement Psychotherapy has positive societal and emotional effects on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.8
Need some inspiration? Try out these songs with accompanying dance routines to start:
- Cha Cha Slide – Dj Casper
- Macarena – Los Del Rio
- Locomotion – Kylie Minogue
- 5,6,7,8 – Steps
- The Twist – Chubby Checker
- Gangnam Style – Psy
- Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake
If your kids have bikes in the shed that are being forgotten about, it’s time to brush off the cobwebs and give them a spin!
Cycling is a great exercise for kids to do, especially as it’s fun for the whole family.
Studies have shown that there is a clear link between cycling and cardiovascular health in children too.9
Just remember to pop a well-fitted helmet on everyone involved in the bike ride – and maybe invest in some elbow and knee pads to be on the safe side!
When we think back to our childhoods, most of us probably remember a good skipping session on the school playground.
But it’s not just a fun, mindful activity, skipping as an exercise also comes with some health benefits for kids too!
Skipping is great for improving cardiovascular health, strengthening lower, upper and abdominal muscles, helping to build strong bones and improving balance.10,11,12,13
Slow-moving, restorative stretches might not come to mind when thinking of exercises for kids – but it should do!
As well as supporting their muscles and joints, yoga has been scientifically proven to help with kids’ anxiety and stress levels.14
You can easily join in with the kids by actively participating in the games and challenges with them or by sitting on the sidelines and keeping score.
By using encouraging and motivating signals the kids will stay engaged in the exercise and having family time is known to improve a child’s wellbeing.
Alongside regular exercise, keep your kids immune system and health in check by using vitamin supplements to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.
Last updated: 18 January 2022