Why active kids are healthier kids…especially while stuck at home.

by Emily Coates, PT, DPT, MedStar Health
March 30, 2020

One of the best ways we can maintain good health is by being physically active on a regular basis. In fact, active kids are healthier kids who experience greater success in life. Ideally, active habits start in early childhood and continue as we grow and develop, but, it’s never too late to start becoming more active.

Given the increased hours, days, and weeks we’re spending at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important that we all keep moving. Our future health depends on it.

What kind of physical activity do kids need?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers research-based physical activity recommendations for all ages, races, genders, and ability levels. In general, the CDC recommends the following physical activity for various age groups:

  • Preschool-aged children between the ages of three and five should be physically active multiple times during the day through various play activities.
  • Children and adolescents between the ages of six to 17 should participate in a mix of aerobic and strengthening activities for at least 60 minutes every day.

Why physical activity is important for your child’s health

The National Association of Physical Literacy defines physical literacy as the ability, balance, confidence, desire, and explorative nature to be active for life. Kids develop physical literacy by moving and exploring their surrounding environment. As babies, kids start to navigate the world around them, using trial and error to develop the foundational skills of movement. These are the building blocks that kids expand upon as they grow, learning and creating more complex movement patterns.

Kids who are active early are more likely to want to keep moving.

It is often this early activity level that will determine how active a child will be as an adult. Without the basic foundation of movement skills, children struggle to stay physically active. In comparison, kids who develop early physical literacy skills are more likely to enjoy athletic activity and stay moving as they grow up.

Active kids do better in life.

Kids who learn to move better are more likely to want to stay active. That’s why research suggests active kids do better in life.

The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program published a report in 2018 proving that active kids are healthier kids because:

  • Active kids are more likely to maintain a healthy weight from childhood to adulthood, with one-tenth of the risk of obesity as compared to inactive children. Childhood obesity is directly linked to lack of exercise and nearly 20% of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese.
  • Active kids perform better in school. Physical activity promotes normal growth and development and improves sleep. As a result, active kids demonstrate better attention in school and higher test scores, which increases the likelihood that they will attend college. In adulthood, this translates to improved productivity at work, with a better chance of earning a higher income compared to inactive counterparts.
  • Active kids make healthier choices as teenagers. Active kids are less likely to participate in risky behaviors, including smoking, drinking, and drug use.
  • Active kids are less likely to have chronic diseases later in life. Regular exercises can decrease the risk of seven out of 10 of the most common chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. As a result, healthy habits experience fewer health costs and an overall decrease in morbidity.
  • Active kids tend to become healthy active adults. And, children of active parents are twice as likely to be active themselves.
Research suggests #ActiveKids are healthy kids who do better in life. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, physical therapist Emily Coates shares why, plus tips to get them moving while they’re stuck at home amidst #COVID-19.

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Physical activity can keep your kids healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a parent or caretaker stuck inside with your kids, these may not be the immediate concerns in your mind. But physical activity has many additional benefits that will improve health-related quality of life. While your family is confined to your home during the COVID-19 pandemic, physical activity can:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety caused by uncertainty
  • Improve immune function
  • Stave off the negative effects of inactivity (e.g., obesity, depression, and chronic disease)

How to help your kids establish active habits at home

While you’re at home, it’s important to create a positive environment that focuses on fun and movement. Given the fear and anxiety we are all experiencing during this pandemic, both you and your kids can benefit from physical movement more now than ever.

If you aren’t already active as a family, now is a great time to introduce more exercise into your new routine. To increase your kid’s physical activity, find creative ways to get moving that work for your family and the space you have available. Right now, that might be your living room.

Try these indoor activities to get your kids moving at home.

There are all sorts of activities that can be done at home with limited space and equipment. The best kinds of indoor activities are those that are fun and encourage exercise without necessarily feeling like a workout. Try these indoor activity ideas to get your kids moving at home:

  • Dance parties
  • Animal races (move like a crab, bear, or frog)
  • Nerf wars
  • Balloon ball
  • Movement-based games, such as charades or Simon Says
  • Virtual activities, such as online kids’ fitness videos and movement-based video games

Don’t be afraid to encourage outdoor activity.

If it’s possible for your family, safely get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Maybe a walk or bike ride appeals to your family. Other outdoor activities might include a game of tag, frisbee, or catch. As long as you have the space to maintain appropriate social distancing, get outside and play.

Be sure to follow CDC guidelines for public health.

As you encourage your kids to get active, keep in mind the recommendations of public health experts, including:

  • Practicing good hand hygiene by washing hands with warm, soapy water at least 20 seconds before and after all activity
  • Following social distancing guidelines by remaining in groups of less than 10 and maintaining space between
  • Avoiding the sharing of sports or fitness equipment, including public playgrounds
  • Cleaning and disinfecting any equipment before and after use
  • Refraining from touching frequently-used surfaces (e.g., handrails on a walking path)

Our days are quite a bit different now, but we can all keep moving to stay active and healthy.


To learn more about COVID-19 public health recommendations, visit MedStarHealth.org/Coronavirus.

How are you getting your kids moving while they’re stuck at home?
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Category: Living Well, Staying Active     Tags: Children's Healthcoronaviruscovid-19ExerciseWellness