Exer-gaming, gardening and home workouts: how to keep kids active while self-isolating

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

With organised sports being cancelled and families being told to spend time at home, it's becoming increasingly hard to make sure children maintain the recommended level daily physical activity.

But, with almost one third of Australia's children and young people being overweight or obese, it is more important than ever for them to stay active despite the need to isolate. 

Kid's health and fitness expert, and director at Fitness Energy, Jane Kilkenny said it was crucial that children keep active during this time.  

"The physical benefits are well recognised (fitness, strength, balance), but maintaining activity will also reduce anxiety and promote concentration and clarity," she said.

"Fun activities also provide a great physical and emotional outlet."

There are many benefits to keeping active and while it's recommended children have varying levels of physical daily activity depending on their age, it's also important they get a mix of vigorous and light or incidental movement.

"Before the onset of coronavirus we had low levels of compliance with daily activity recommendations," she said.

"With the cancellation of organised kids sporting activities we are at a crucial time. We must ensure that we keep our kids moving."

And the benefits are far-reaching - from strong bones, a healthy immune system, skeletal and cognitive development, to improved concentration and a reduction in anxiety and stress.

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"Exercise is a crucial element for growing bodies and minds," she said.

She recommends playing running, and ball, games, with your kids, skipping, hopscotch and dancing, among other activities.

"Exercise circuits that include cardio and strength exercises such as squats, push-ups, skipping, sprints, jumping, planks. It's easy to put together a group of simple exercises, do them for 30-60 seconds, take a rest and repeat," she said.

"If your kids play sport, try to maintain their skills during this time when sports have been cancelled. 

"Yoga and Pilates are also a great option with many apps providing structured workouts that you can do at home."

Owner of Mum-Me Fit Time, an online fitness and health coaching business, Nikki Knieriem said keeping active will help reduce stress.

"Avoiding stress can be almost impossible in the current environment but what we can do is reduce the impact of stress on your body," Ms Knieriem said.

Daily exercise will help relieve stress, build immunity and also clear your mind.

She suggests a range of ways to exercise at home whether it be doing calf raises while preparing dinner or squats when hanging out the washing – all of it helps.

"It's important to let go of any expectations around what constitutes a workout," she said.

"Is the garden looking neglected? This is a two for one deal – pull out some weeds, and let your children help you.

"Put on some of your favourite tunes and have a dance party together. Create an obstacle course with the lounge and pillows and have indoor races. Have a competition who can do a plank for the longest amount of time. Playing chasey – every bit of movement counts."

But not every child wants to take part in home-based exercise programs run by their parents, said head of business development and strategy at East Brands, Jack East.

"Motivating kids to engage in a minimum amount of activity every day is no easy feat - more so if your kids aren't sport inclined but remember - it is possible," Mr East said.

"Parents will need to be well prepared, creative, agile and fairly disciplined if they want the benefits of structured activity to keep flowing.

"If the kids absolutely hate the activity you've scheduled – don't push it. Exercise should be enjoyable, not a task that is dreaded. You know your kids best so schedule activities that you know they're likely to enjoy or at least engage in."

And don't be afraid to be creative when coming up with activities – it's all about getting kids moving in fun ways. 

"Take charge and teach your kids a fun skill that you know (and they don't) and then reverse roles and they could perhaps teach you a TikTok dance," he said.

"Try exergaming. There's a stack of Nintendo Wii games that are a heap of fun and also make you break a sweat. Try We Ski & Snowboard for an immersive snowboarding session that will leave you puffing.

"For teens who are less inclined to spend time exercising with mum and dad, there are a heap of online platforms offering high energy workouts." 

Be creative with your approach, because it's not how your kids are exercising it's the fact they're exercising at all which is most important.