I have been a certified fitness instructor for over 20 years, and one of my favorite things is working with children. Exercise for kids is essential for a healthy lifestyle. If you teach them to love working out at a very young age, they will be more likely to stick with it as adults. And the best way to motivate them to exercise is by doing it along with them.
We have put together six of our favorite exercises for your entire family. Your goal is to teach your kids the proper way to do them while keeping it fun. I love putting on some great tunes and incorporating dance breaks in between the exercises. It's also fun to play "freeze!" while you're exercising. At any time during the workout yell out "freeze!" and make everyone freeze in place. Nobody can move again until you yell out "go!" Perhaps the best thing about working out with your kids is that they will also motivate you to exercise. It's fun for the entire family!
How Do I Pick The Right Exercise For Kid?
There is no one right exercise for kids. The idea is to find exercises that they enjoy and that incorporate as many muscles as possible. The six exercises that we have chosen work the entire body. But mix it up and most importantly, keep it fun!
At What Age Should We Start Exercise For Kids?
Believe it or not, children begin their first exercises within days of birth. When you give your infant "tummy time" they are developing the muscles in their backs. You can do workouts with your children at any age, but they should be age-specific. For the exercises on our list, the best age to start is around five to six.
Should Kids Use Weights?
According to medical experts, children should do strength training, but they should not use weights. For children, lifting weights can put too much strain on young muscles, tendons, and growth plates of cartilage that haven't yet turned to bone. Instead, exercise for kids should focus on strength training using the child's body weight. During your workout with your kids always emphasize proper form and technique for all of the exercises. Teenagers can make their workouts more challenging by adding resistance bands. By the age of 17 to 18, they can start using weights.
How Long Should Kids Workout Every Day?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, children should get at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day. They should also get at least one hour of aerobic activity three times per week and at least one hour of muscle/bone strengthening three times per week. The CDC says that regular physical activity for children is essential for promoting well-being and lifelong health. Exercise for kids also prevents various health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
The warm-up is an essential part of any workout, including for kids.
First get the heart pumping
Before you start any strengthening exercise for kids, you should warm up the body. Start with something like 25 jumping jacks or even just crazy dancing. The idea is to get the body warm by getting the heart pumping. Try having your kids line up on one side of the room or yard and do butt kicker runs to the other end. Then turn around and do high knee runs back to the starting position. Next, you can do a set of frog jumps across the room. For frog jumps, have them squat down to touch the floor with their hands and then jump straight up and forward, landing back in the frog position. Another good way to get the body warmed up is by doing a few minutes of jumping rope.
Don't forget about stretching
After you get the blood moving, it's essential to stretch. You should also do a little stretching at the end of your workout. Start with your child laying on the floor on their back and pull one leg at a time toward their chest. Roll over onto your stomach and push up onto straight arms, stretching the back and abdominals.
You can also sit with your legs straddled out to the side and reach forward. While still sitting bring the soles of your feet together and lean forward as you push your knees down toward the ground. To stretch out your upper body do some arm circles and then have your child clap their hands in front of their chest and then swing the arms back and clap hands behind the back. Repeat this about 20 times. Your whole warm-up should take around five minutes.
Exercise For Kids
In no particular order, these are six of our favorite movements for kids. They work the entire body, and they're super fun to boot! These exercises are great for the whole family, even you!
Planks are an excellent exercise for kids. They strengthen the muscles in your thighs, chest, shoulders, and most importantly, in your core. Start by laying on your stomach with your toes on the floor and your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Then so a push-up and hold your body tight with straight arms and legs. You want to hold the position with your body in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Once you and your child get the form down, you should try to hold the position for 30 seconds.
Explain to your child that they want to try to make their bodies into a straight solid piece of wood, a plank. You want to avoid a spaghetti tummy that falls to the floor or an inchworm butt sticking up too high. For a harder variation, you can do traveling planks. Have your child get into the plank position and then move your right hand and right foot a couple of inches to the right. Your left hand and foot will follow, moving to the right and ending in the original plank position. Make five moves to the right and then travel five times back to the left. Your goal is to keep your body in a straight line, and your stomach pulled in tight.
Squats are another great exercise for kids because they work your entire lower body. Start with your feet about shoulder width apart or a little wider. Allow your butt to point to the back wall as you bend both knees and squat down. You want to be sure that your knees do not bend beyond 90 degrees. When you're in the squat position, your knees should be lined up directly above your ankles. Never let your knees push forward of your toes. Once your child has learned the technique, repeat the movement 10 to 15 times for one set. As you and your child get stronger, you should work up to three of them.
Tell your child to pretend that they are sitting down on an imaginary chair. You can make this exercise for kids even more fun by doing jumping squats. This exercise is a more advanced variation, but you shouldn't try it until your child has mastered the technique of the squat. Start with your feet should width apart and sit back on your imaginary chair. Then from the squatting position jump straight up. When you land you immediately go back down into the squat. Repeat for 10 reps per set, and work up to three of them.
What squats are to your lower body, push-ups are to your upper body. This exercise for kids works all of the muscles in your arms, chest, and shoulders. But before you try push-ups with your kids, make sure that they have mastered the plank position. You can do push-ups with straight legs or bent knees. Be sure to keep your tummy pulled in tight and your back straight. Just like with the planks, you don't want a loose spaghetti tummy or an inchworm butt. You should do 5 to 10 push-ups per set, working up to two to three of them with rest in between.
You can do a variation of this exercise for kids by using an elevated platform. Have your child get into the plank position with their toes on the floor and their hands on the bench and perform the push-up. Doing the exercise this way will take some of the weight off of their upper body, making it easier for them. Using the elevated platform is an excellent way to teach your child the technique of the exercise. While they are learning it's more important that they get the form correct than doing a lot of reps.
Roll like a ball
I love this exercise for kids. It comes from the world of pilates, and it's both fun and challenging. This exercise is for strengthening the core, especially the stomach muscles, and it also works on balance, butt balance! Start sitting with your knees bent and both feet on the floor. Slightly open your knees and lift your heels so that only your toes remain on the ground. Round your back and pull your tummy in tight. Then roll back onto your back like a ball, rolling all the way to your shoulders, allowing your hips to come off the floor. Roll back up to the sitting position without letting your feet touch the floor. Hold that position, balancing on just your butt, for one to three seconds and then roll back again and repeat.
Tell your child that they are trying to be just like a rolling ball, keeping their body in a tight rounded position throughout the exercise. Pretend that your lower back and your belly button are two powerful magnets pulling toward each other. You should aim for 10 to 20 reps per set, working up to three of them. You can make this exercise for kids even harder if you straighten your legs when you're in the balance position. Try stretching your arms above your head while you straighten your legs. You want to hold your balance on just your butt with your arms and legs making a V shape. Then without letting your feet touch the floor, tuck back into a ball and roll back.
Walking lunges are another excellent exercise for kids that will strengthen the entire lower body. They also work on endurance. Start standing with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Using your right leg, take a giant step forward and bend both knees until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Then stand up bringing your left foot into a giant step forward and repeat the lunge on your left leg. Make sure that the front knee never bends beyond 90 degrees. You also don't want your front knee to go forward of your toes. Try to keep the front knee lined up directly above the ankle.
You can do this exercise for kids traveling across the room or yard. For each set you want to do 5 to 10 lunges on each leg, working up to three sets. When I teach children walking lunges, I like to combine them with jumping jacks. I have the kids do 10 giant walking lunges, five on each leg, and then 20 jumping jack for one rotation. Take a short rest and then repeat a second and third set.
Burpees are another excellent exercise for kids for strengthening the whole body, including the cardiovascular system. The full movement takes six counts. Start by standing with your feet slightly apart. On one, bend your knees and place your hands on the floor outside of your feet. On count two jump your feet back to get into the plank position. Have your child then bend their elbows, lowering their body down to the ground on three. On count four, push back to the plank position. Next, jump your feet back to meet your hands on five. Then on six, jump straight up clapping your hands above your head. All six moves make one burpee. Do 5 to 10 burpees per set, working up to 3 of them, with rest in between.
You can teach your child the movements on counts one through six. And then you can make it more fun by changing the speed of the count. They will do each move as you count. Count a little faster or a little slower to challenge them. You can also pause and have them hold any of the positions.
Make It A Game
Ultimately, exercise for kids should be super fun while at the same strengthening their bodies and making them healthier. Keeping it fun will ensure that they want to do the exercises. I like teaching kids workouts using fun, upbeat music. The six activities I have listed will provide a full body workout for both you and your kids. I like to mix them up instead of doing the sets in succession. Try doing one set of each exercise and then take a two-minute crazy dance break. Then do a second set of each movement and repeat. If you have very young children, then 30 minutes is an appropriate amount of time for your workout. With older children, you should aim for one hour. Don't forget to take plenty of water breaks throughout the exercise.
One Last Thing
While you are working out with your kids, you always want to encourage them to use proper technique and form. The best way to teach them is by example. But while you're stressing technique don't be too rigid. You want them to have fun and enjoy the experience. The more fun they have, the more they will want to exercise. And in my experience, when children enjoy working out at an early age, they are more likely to enjoy it and stick with it as an adult. Now we want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments section about your favorite family exercise routine.