Mother and daughter doing yoga

For many kids, movement is second nature — playing tag and swinging from the monkey bars are the best part of the day. And yet most kids aren’t getting the exercise they need to thrive.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get at least an hour of physical activity a day. Only about 25% hit that mark.

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The Many Benefits of Exercise

Want to improve your child’s quality of life both now and in the future? Encourage them to exercise.

For kids, some of the benefits of physical activity include:

  • Building strong bones and muscles, which can help with injury prevention.
  • Boosting self-esteem, confidence, and enthusiasm.
  • Getting better sleep.
  • Improving attention, behavior, self-control, and performance in school.
  • Reducing anxiety, stress, and tension.
  • Reducing the risk for chronic conditions — such as heart disease and diabetes — later in life.

Fun Exercises for Kids

Exercise should be fun for all ages, but especially for kids. Fun exercise for kids is even more important since they’re forming attitudes toward physical fitness that can last a lifetime. The more you can find fun exercises to do at home, the more you’ll set your kids up for success.

Here are some ideas for fun exercises you can do at home to amp up your family’s activity level:

Set the example.

When your kids see you exercising, their interest will grow. Working out together can be a great way to bond. But even if you do different activities, children will find inspiration in you as an active role model.

Make it a family affair.

Involve the whole family in the exercise routine. This not only promotes a healthy lifestyle for everyone but also creates a supportive and motivating environment.

Explore a variety of activities.

Because we all have different personalities and skillsets, we all like doing different things. Some kids may love team sports like baseball, while others prefer unstructured activities like sledding or skateboarding. Offer a variety of activities to fend off boredom and allow kids to find what they like.

Choose age-appropriate activities.

Tailor exercises to your children’s ages and interests. Younger kids may enjoy activities like jumping jacks, dancing, or playing interactive video games, while older kids might like more structured activities like yoga, pilates, or bodyweight exercises.

Look for ways to up the engagement.

Take some time to explore which activities your children like best. By trying new things, they may discover a love for being active they never knew they had. There are lots of methods to add some fun exercise to your day.

Turn a standard walk outside into a scavenger hunt. Build an obstacle course in the backyard. Or, if you’re sitting around the house, put on some music and throw a spontaneous dance party.

And don’t forget those backyard games you played as a kid — things like three-legged races, egg-and-spoon races, and wheelbarrow races. Those are all good for both breaking a sweat and getting in some laughs!

Set a schedule.

Establish a regular exercise routine. Consistency is key when it comes to forming habits. Having a set time for physical activity helps make it a part of their daily routine.

Create a fun environment.

Use music, colorful equipment, or even themed workouts to make exercising fun for kids. For example, create an obstacle course or pretend to be animals during a workout.

Provide any needed equipment.

Make sure your child has access to whatever they need to be active, whether that’s a pair of shorts or a skateboard. Just having a variety of equipment around will make your children more likely to move.

Roller skates, bikes, and balls of all kinds (basketballs, soccer balls, footballs, volleyballs, baseballs, etc.) are all good to have on hand.

Encourage outdoor play.

Take advantage of outdoor spaces. Activities like biking, hiking, or playing sports in the backyard or park can be great ways to get kids moving while enjoying the fresh air.

Take advantage of the seasons.

Get your children involved in activities they can do in cold weather. Ice skating, hockey, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, sledding, ice fishing, even snowman building can keep kids active during the winter and help liven up dreary days.

Make it social.

If possible, let your child exercise with friends via video calls or in-person. Having a workout buddy can make the experience more enjoyable.

Incorporate technology.

Use interactive video games or apps designed for physical activity. Many games encourage movement and can be a fun way for kids to exercise without even realizing it.

Offer rewards.

Kids who are competitive might like a rewards system for accomplishing a fitness goal. Rewards could include choosing the destination of your next family day trip or getting a break from chore duty.

Even something as simple as a chart with stickers awarded for each exercise session can be motivating.

Make working out a positive experience.

Don’t use physical activity as a punishment if your child does something wrong. This could encourage a long-lasting unhealthy relationship with exercise. Remember to prioritize fun and positive reinforcement over pressure. The goal is to instill a love for physical activity that will last a lifetime.

Build up to it if your children have been inactive.

It’s important to ease kids into more exercise if they’re not getting much at the moment. Gradually build up the time spent being active so that it’s not overwhelming or discouraging.

If they don’t hit the 60 recommended minutes one day, don’t worry. Regular exercise for kids builds the foundation of a habit, and not every day will be perfect. Keep finding fun exercise ideas, and you’ll help your children grow into healthy adults.

To learn more about sports and activities for kids – and how UPMC Sports Medicine can help young athletes prevent and rehabilitate activity-related injuries – visit our website or call 1-855-937-7678.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

“11 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active." American Academy of Pediatrics. Link

“How and Why to Get Children Moving Now." American Psychological Association. Link

“How Can I Help My Children Be More Physically Active?" American Heart Association. Link

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