Helping Kids Stay Physically Active and Connected Amid a Pandemic
If your kids are anything like most, they are probably bouncing off the walls a bit right now due to a deficit in physical activity.
It has been a very long and challenging year, but thankfully, it appears that some light in the darkness is nearing. The final impact of physical distancing on our youth remains unclear. Yet, there is one thing for sure; physical activity levels are significantly down compared to last year. If your kids are pushing your buttons a little more than usual, you aren’t alone. And one of the culprits is quite possibly a lack of exercise.
Research has shown that kids behave better in school, learn better, and are less hyperactive when physically active. We see this in our own house. Exercise makes everyone happier. The kids get along, and there are fewer behavioral issues at home when everyone gets their daily endorphin release. Many parents are struggling with ways to keep their kids active as the cold weather months of winter take a grip on our part of the globe.
Physical Activity and Young Children
Physical activity isn’t just crucial for a child’s physical health; it is also critical for their brain development. The bulk of brain development occurs during the first few years of life. Physical exercise is what helps connect the brain to the nerves. It helps improve muscular coordination and motor skills, problem-solving, critical thinking, social skills, and creativity. When kids cannot receive the physical activity they need, these critical developmental milestones can be delayed.
Physical Activity and Adolescents
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children and adolescents get one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. For this age group, exercise is critical for building strong bones and muscles, improving mental health, enhancing social skills, and lowering their risk of obesity. From an educational standpoint, physical activity enhances the ability to focus and complete tasks. Exercise also reduces a youth’s risk of developing a variety of health conditions, including diabetes.
Physical Activity During a Pandemic
How do you support your child’s need for physical activity when everything is shut down? First, it is essential to give yourself a break. This pandemic is like nothing any of us have ever experienced. Parents are wearing multiple hats and doing their very best at balancing what life has thrown at them. Taking time for physical activity is a concept many of us can’t fathom right now. We’re just too busy. But research has shown that physical activity is an absolute necessity.
Physical activity during a pandemic looks different. We take what we can get. This may mean making a game of it. Have everyone in the family write down an exercise and put it in a jar. Each person has to do the activity listed before moving onto the next. This can include doing 30 jumping jacks, running in place for one minute, doing ten situps. Make the exercises appropriate for everyone in your house. It can also mean bundling up and going on nature walks. Create a scavenger hunt so kids can search for the listed items on their walk.
For kids who typically participate in team sports, please encourage them to keep up their fitness level by incorporating regular exercise into their week. My daughter, a competitive swimmer, put together a physically distanced dryland group consisting of high school age kids from her team. They meet three days a week for an hour and go through a series of exercises in a local park while maintaining physical distancing. The meetup allows them to stay socially connected and physically active. Win-win!
We know this is a challenging time for most families, and we are here to help support you. If you have questions or concerns about how to keep your family physically active, please contact us and schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric providers. We can work together to develop some safe and effective ways to keep your kids healthy and active this winter.