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It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. Perhaps a bit too easy. If you’re kids like to spend the summer playing video games and sleeping in until dinnertime, getting them to exercise for an hour a day can seem like a daunting task. 

But, getting in the recommended 60 minutes is not just a good idea; it’s imperative for healthy, well-adjusted kids (who, in turn, become healthy, well-adjusted adults!):

  • Build and maintain fit bones, muscles and joints
  • Enhance mental capacity and improve school performance
  • Help with self-esteem and confidence
  • Prevent diseases like Diabetes, Obesity, & Heart Disease
  • Develop motor skills & coordination
  • Improve emotional state and combat anxiety/depression

Getting your kids off the couch and onto their feet comes down to 2 things: make it fun & make it relational. Kids will do almost anything if you turn it into a game, including exercise. And, kids are much more likely to break a sweat if they have some company. Whether that means you round up the neighborhood and go for a group bike ride, or gather the family to play a game of capture the flag, or challenge your kid to a race around the block. When it’s fun and relational, those 60 minutes of exercise suddenly don’t seem so impossible. 

Mix It Up

To make sure that your kids have a balanced, active lifestyle, make sure to mix it up when it comes to kids exerciseexercise. Those 60 minutes should include moderate aerobics, vigorous aerobics, muscle strengthening & bone strengthening. If your child is strong but doesn’t have great stamina, or fast but lacking in muscle, he or she might be missing out on one of these core areas of exercise.

Moderate Aerobics

These are the kinds of exercises that are hidden within games and regular activities, like walking the dog, playing Frisbee, jumping on a trampoline, or going for a swim.

How You Know It’s Working: You can hold a conversation, but are too out of breath to sing a song.

How to Add in the Fun:

  • Family jump rope competition (winner gets a Popsicle!)
  • Rollerblade race around the block
  • Round up the neighborhood and make teams for street hockey, basketball, or softball (friendly competition is a great way to encourage physical activity!)
  • Have your kid teach you a sport/activity like skateboarding or how to do flips on the trampoline 

Vigorous Aerobics

Vigorous exercises are the kind where you know you are burning some calories. Your heart rate is boosted, your sweat glands are working overtime, and there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be sore the next day. The CDC recommends that your child does vigorous aerobics at least 3 days a week. 

How You Know It’s Working: You are able to pant out a few words, but that’s about it before needing to stop and catch your breath. 

How to Add in the Fun:

  • Make a playlist with your child and blast it, dancing fast-paced and non-stop throughout the house until the music stops.
  • Go for a hike at a local park. Pack a bag full of bottled water to make the trek more difficult (and to stay hydrated, of course).
  • Take an aerobics, kickboxing or karate class with your kid.
  • Go to the track at your local high school and have a family race day (winner gets to pick where you go to eat afterward!).
  • Teach your child a sport/activity like soccer or tennis (ideally, one that involves a lot of constant movement).

Muscle Strengthening 

Strengthening muscles in kids isn’t just a matter of getting them to lift weights or try to bench press the bar. family soccerChildren build up their muscle mass by lifting their own body weight (i.e., pushups) or working against a resistance (i.e., tug-of-war). 

How You Know It’s Working: The area you are working will feel fatigued and slightly weakened (this is because muscle must breakdown in order to be repaired by cells in the body, these “satellite cells” then increase in size and thickness to build muscle).  

How to Add in the Fun:

  • Go to a playground with a jungle gym and pretend the ground is lava and your child must swing on the monkey bars and other equipment (thus, working against his or her own weight).
  • Challenge your child to a sit-up or push-up competition (every set of 10 wins them a dollar toward a small toy/reward).
  • Sign your child up for a gymnastics team or class (even offer to do it together).
  • Go to a rock climbing gym like Planet Rock or Gravity Vault.

Bone Strengthening 

This is one area of exercise often overlooked. Healthy bones come from drinking lots of milk, right? Yes, but mom and son stretchit also comes from activities that produce impact and tension force on bones for growth and strength. Building up bone strength is critical for kids because it will greatly impact their skeletal health as they get older. 

How You Know It’s Working: this one is not so easy to tell, but one quick & simple indicator is if you are on your feet. If you are up and moving around, putting weight on your body just by being vertical, then you are, to some degree, building bone strength. 

How to Add in the Fun:

  • If you have a beach nearby, go out on a nice day and challenge your child to a race on the sand. Best part: you can cool off by taking a swim!
  • Teach your child how to ice skate, or see how many goals he or she can make against you in a game of ice hockey.
  • In the winter, go skiing or snowboarding with the whole family. In the summer, go water-skiing or wakeboarding.
  • Take a martial arts class with your child or sign up for family yoga (check out your local YMCA for a list of family programs).

Getting your kids to exercise for 60 minutes a day should be simple, fun and, most of all, something you do together!

Let us know what you think of these fun exercise suggestions in the comments or on Facebook. If you work for a school or volunteer on a PTA/PTO and are interested in teaming up with us to plan a 60-minute Fun Run fundraising event, we’d love to hear from you!

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Sources: NHS Physical Activity Guidelines for Children & Young People | University of Illinois Wellness Center | My New Heights Fitness: 10 Reasons Children Exercise