Physical activity is essential for children of all ages and helps with the development of a healthy mind and body. The American Heart Association recommends that kids and teens (ages 6-17) get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.1 It is important to note that this 60 minutes doesn’t need to be consecutive, and can be broken up into smaller time increments throughout the day.
Here are a few ways to get physical activity time as a family:
- Dance parties: Turn on some music before or after school and groove around the house. Bonus points for getting creative and organizing a family choreographed dance!
- Scavenger hunts: In your backyard or in the house, have children try to find buried “treasure.” Items can consist of healthy snacks, books, or art supplies.
- Walking Challenge: As weather permits, try to get your steps in outside as a family. Most smart phones will automatically track your steps, and it can be fun to set “step goals” with your children. Check out Massachusetts Accessible Trails for walking trail options throughout the state.
Less Screen Time, More Move Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time for children, as increased screen time equates to increased sedentary (or sitting) time. Replacing screen time with active time helps children foster healthy habits which follow them into adulthood, and ultimately decreases their risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Additionally, The Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Boston Children’s Hospital recently found that active play was associated with less sadness, anxiety, and fearfulness in both the U.S. and Mexico. In the U.S., active play was also associated with less aggression and fewer attention problems.2
Check out the following tips adapted from the American Heart Association to get children moving at home:1
- Be a role model for an active lifestyle – Start moving more yourself!
- Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents. Encourage kids to keep trying activities to discover the ones they like and will stick with. Don’t use physical activity as a punishment.
- Reduce or limit sedentary screen time, including watching television, playing video games and using a digital device. Don’t use the TV or a device as a babysitter.
- Provide kids with opportunities to be active. Give them active toys and games, like bikes, skateboards, roller skates, scooters, jump ropes, balls and sports equipment.
- Support their participation in sports, dance and other active recreation like swimming, biking and running.
- When safe, let them walk or bike places instead of always driving them in the car. For example, you could walk or bike to school or the bus stop together. Check out Massachusetts Safe Routes to Schools to learn more.
- If your child is very inactive now, start slowly. Increase the amount and intensity of activity gradually each week or so. This may help them avoid discomfort or injury and adjust to a more active lifestyle without becoming discouraged.
- Praise, rewards and encouragement help kids to stay active.
Want to help all kids have more opportunities for physical activity? Learn how to advocate in your community by signing up for Voices for Healthy Kids.
- How Can I Help My Child Be More Physically Active? American Heart Association , 17 Apr. 2018, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-children.
- Ellis, Lisa D. Help Your Kids Balance Screen Time and Healthy Play during COVID-19. Boston Children’s Hospital, 9 Sept. 2020.
- 25 Ways to Get Moving at Home. American Heart Association website. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/getting-active/25-ways-to-get-moving-at-home-infographic. Updated 2019. Accessed June 2021.