Your guide to making exercise fun for kids!

We all know how important it is for kids to be active, I don’t think I need to convince you all of that. It is essential for kids to not only grow and develop the skills they need, but also to reduce the risk life style based diseases such as; obesity, diabetes and heart conditions, while improving their mental health.

But we live in a time where kids would often prefer to sit indoors and play video games instead of being active. So, how do we get kids to get up off the couch and participate in exercise?

The key to this – they have to want to do it!

Kids will play video games because it is what the enjoy doing, or at least they enjoy it more than exercise. For us to get our kids to be more active, we need to make it fun. We need to make them want to go out and be active. That’s the idea behind today’s post – here is your guide to making exercise fun for kids!

Fire up their imagination

Sometimes you don’t need equipment, all you need is your imagination. Kids have the best imaginations and have a knack of making something out of nothing. So let their imagination run wild!

Keep in mind that kids are more likely to participate in and enjoy something that they have come up with. It’s one of the first lessons I learned at university regarding behaviour change. For it to work, the idea or decision has to come from within. This lesson applies directly to this situation. Kids will be more likely to do something they decide to do compared to being told to do it. So let them use their imagination and give them control to choose (with guidance as needed). This will make them more engaged and more likely to participate frequently.

If your kid is a bit stuck for ideas, kick start their imagination with our video. From our Simply Kids series. “Move like an animal” is a great example of how you can get kids imagination firing while getting them moving at the same time. Let us know which animals your kids like to move like in the comments below!

Kids love competition

There is only one thing that kids love more than competition (aside from sugar!), and that’s winning. If we are being honest, everyone loves to win! At the end of the day, kids become more engaged and invested in physical activity if they are competing. Even if they lose, it’s a great way to teach them resilience, persistence and how to respond to not being successful.

There are endless ways of making something competitive. I’ve found that the best ways are to:

      • Have a race
      • See who can last the longest
      • Keep score
      • Try to beat a score/time from last time.

I do understand that there are some kids that don’t like competition. If that is the case, then we have plenty more strategies that you can use!

Sports are a good starting point

Sports can be a great way to get kids active. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, all that matters is that they enjoy it and want to participate. They don’t even have to play at a high level! It’s a great way for them to be social and have fun while exercising and that’s what matters.

For me, Basketball has always been my sport. I first got introduced to it at Primary School when I was 7. Once I started playing, I fell in love with it! It was so much fun and I was inspired by watching those that played at the highest level. It played a massive role in the development of my physical health and capabilities. And there is no reason why a sport can’t do that for your child too. Let them try it out, see if they enjoy it and let them be inspired by those at the highest level. After that, it’s very easy to get them involved.

But, if competitive sport isn’t appealing for your child, maybe casual sport is. Kicking the footy around, shooting some hoops, going for a bike ride or playing around with a soccer ball are great ways to exercise and have fun without having to be in a competitive environment. It also enables you to adjust the sport to fit your circumstances (space, equipment, etc.). You could even come up with your own brand new sport. Every sport is made up anyway!

Active video games!

Funnily enough, there is such a thing as an active video game! Why not use a kid’s enjoyment of video games to help them be more active? Platforms like the Nintendo Wii and X-Box Kinect provide gaming options that require the participant to move around to play. There are many options out there, so it is worth looking into, especially if you can find an option for a console you already have!

Alternatively, you could also be creative to find a way to incorporate physical activity into their favourite video game. It’s important to remember that what works for one game won’t necessarily work for others. As an example, for a sports game, maybe when you score a goal you need to complete a certain activity before being allowed to pick the controller back up and continuing the game? or could be based around competition – the losing player needs to do ten star jumps or push ups.  Let us know in the comments below if you have any ideas on ways to incorporate exercise into your child’s favourite video game!

Build an obstacle course

This is a great way to utilise your kids imagination, and another fantastic way to be active. You can use anything for any role and turn it into a full course! A tunnel made of chairs, a balance beam made of a resistance band or tape, jumping over objects, climbing onto play sets, using a skipping rope, climbing stairs, or lifting and carrying ‘heavy’ objects. The options are endless! Your course can consist of many obstacles and variations that challenge many physical components such as movement mechanics, strength, endurance and balance.

The other thing to consider is what are you trying to achieve by beating the course? Is it a race? Maybe you need to get to the end and throw a ball at a target for points. Another great option I have had success with is a memory challenge. Set up a pattern of coloured balls (or another object) hidden at the end of the course. Once you get through the course, have a look at the pattern before making your way back through the course to re-create the pattern back at the start. If you get it wrong, back through the course you go to get another look. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what it is, but the best courses have an end goal that the kids can focus on achieving.

In the video below, we show you some examples of what your obstacle course could include. Check it out and give your kids some ideas of what items they can include in their course. Let us know in the comments below what your course is made up of and what equipment you use. You never know, maybe your idea will feature in a future post!

Exercise based games

There are some really great options out there for games that require exercise. One that I use all the time is Hyperdash, and kids love it! You have a hand held controller and 5 different coloured domes. Start by placing the controller on any dome, then the music starts and it names coloured domes. You race to the colour and place the controller on the dome as quickly as you can before moving onto the next colour. The fastest time wins, or you can try to beat your personal best. It works particularly well when the domes are really spread out. For example, when I play with my sister, we have domes in different rooms in the house. We end up running all over the place and get a great cardio workout!  This is such an easy one to replicate at home, you could use different coloured cups or even paper with different markers like letters. We love a game that challenges their minds as well!

Another great option is Twister, which is more challenging for strength, flexibility and balance. Or you could go for something like Charades that doesn’t need equipment.

You could also take the opportunity to design your own active game with what you have around the house. As part of our Simply Kids series, we created a video with some games that can be played with two (or more) people using household items. Check it out below, give the games a try or use these ideas as inspiration to create your own game! Let us know what games your kids like to play in the comments below!

Adapt their favourite board game

Just like the video games, it can be a great option to adapt a board game to include an active component. Let’s use Monopoly as an example. An option would be that every time a player goes to Jail, they need to run a lap of the house. There could be a requirement to complete ten star jumps every time you buy a property. Or exercise could be used as a way to make trading more interesting. If they want to make a trade, they need to successfully complete a task within a time limit.

This strategy also involves plenty of imagination and creativity, so let us know in the comments below what exercise-based additions you have incorporated into your family game night!

Want to know more?

 Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) recently published their new e-book “Exercise for Kids“. It is a great resource that provides a lot of information around the importance of exercise for kids, the benefits it can provide them, and how exercise can help kids with various medical conditions.

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

And here is a little sneak peek into some posts that will be coming your way over the next few weeks:

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

Also, keep an eye out for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger members and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Follow us on Social Media!

References

Photos provided by Allen Taylor, National Cancer Institute, NeONBRAND and Rafaela Biazi via Unsplash.com

4 tips to help everyone stay limber and focused at your desk!

The inspiration for this post came from a teacher. They were asking about strategies and tips for helping kids survive the many hours they now spend at a desk. 

So here we are – let’s have a chat about how we can help students in the classroom. More specifically, let’s dive into the ideas and concepts relating to a great sitting posture, relieving tension, and using movement to regain focus. All of which will help your students stay loose and focussed throughout a long day of studying. Simply Stronger’s amazing Director, Sara, will be taking you through the journey to discover the four important ways that we can help your students achieve this.

#1 - Sitting posture

The first tip revolves around our posture while sitting. In the following video, Sara will demonstrate and explain the two key points that will help your students maintain a good sitting posture.

The two important messages to remember are to sit on top of your sit bones and shine your chest torch forwards. Once explained and understood, these two cues are very simple ways to quickly remind your students and yourself of the ideal sitting position.

#2 - Desk stretching

I’m sure all of us frequently experience stiffness and tightness while sitting at a desk for a prolonged period. I can imagine that you have been experiencing this yourself, as well as your students, whether  studying/working in the classroom or from home! In the next video Sara will take us through a variety of stretches that can help us reduce that stiffness and stay nice and loose.

Remember, these stretches can help relax and loosen up your bodies, all while staying at your desk:

    1. Lateral Neck Stretch
    2. Levator Scapula Stretch (another neck stretch)
    3. Shoulder Stretch
    4. Wrist Extensor Stretch
    5. Wrist Flexor Stretch

Make sure these stretches are done on both sides of your body, that you take long deep breaths and that you hold the stretch for around 20 seconds at a time.

This is by no means an extensive list of stretches, but a few very good ones to get your started. If you use any alternative stretches, or have an idea for a different stretch or area of your body you would like us to show you, let us know in the comments below!

#3 - Getting mobile

Although the desk stretches are a great place to start, there is nothing better than getting up and moving about after sitting in a chair for a long time. In this video, Sara will show you some exercises that will help your students get moving, loosen up and get rid of that tension building up in their body – especially through their back and hips!

Don’t be shy here, you know it will feel great to try it yourself!

The exercises that you can use to get your students moving are:

    1. Happy puppy, sad puppy
    2. Roll down
    3. Windmill
    4. Knee tucks
    5. Rotations

Remember, these activities can be completed in the classroom, in between classes or while studying at home. It could be a great option to encourage students to try an exercise in the middle of a class to help break up their sitting time.

#4 - Getting your heart pumping

Finally, it’s time to get our heart pumping and get that blood flowing! This is especially important for students to regain focus or maintain their concentration throughout the day. I’ll now pass it over to Sara who will explain and demonstrate some great activities to help with this.

These are the activities that are a great place to start:

    1. Arm swings
    2. High knees
    3. Arm circles (both ways)
    4. Star jumps
    5. Heel kicks

Remember, we are looking for around 20 repetitions of these exercises at a high pace to get our heart rate up – slow and steady won’t win this race!

Of course, this is a great starting point, but there are many great activities out there. If you use a different activity with your students or have an idea of a different exercise, let us know in the comments below!

Not just for teachers and students!

Although these tips have been designed specifically for teachers and their students, they can be applied to any situation that involves prolonged sitting time. Whether you are studying, teaching, working from home or you regularly work from a desk, these tips can help you! Remember, it’s all about reducing tension and staying loose to help us stay comfortable, focussed and productive!

If you do have injuries that prevent you from completing any of these exercises get in touch and we will help you to modify them.

Want to know more?

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

And here is a little sneak peek into some posts that will be coming your way over the next few weeks:

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

Also, keep an eye out for our brand new series “How I live strong and prosper”. In this series we’ll be chatting with Simply Stronger members and finding out what they do to live strong and prosper!

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

References

Photos provided by NeONBRAND via Unsplash.com

Tips for maintaining your health during a pandemic

Yes, today we are going to talk about the ‘P’ word – Pandemic. I think we can say that we are well and truly into uncharted territory when it comes to Covid-19. 

When I think back to the start of 2020, a pandemic wasn’t even considered a possibility. But here we are months later and our lives have been completely changed by it. Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on our lives and it appears as though this will continue for some time. We are all having to make adjustments to what could be the new normal, at least for a while.

In a lot of situations, these changes are resulting in more physical inactivity, and declines in overall physical health. Thinking about this makes me very concerned. We currently live in a society where video games, iPhones, computers and televisions dominate our attention and already cause significant health complications.

In 2017-18, according to the Australian Institute of health and Wellness, 1 in 4 children and 2 in 3 adults were classed as obese. Physical inactivity throughout the pandemic could see this already high number increase even further.

It is essential, that as a wider community, we do everything we can to at least maintain our physical health while restrictions are in place. So, let’s have a chat about how we can stay physically active during the pandemic and avoid the potential health consequences.

#1 – Break up sitting time

The first thing I want to stress is that sitting is not bad! We all sit every day, and some of us spend more time sitting than we do standing. The issue with sitting is when we remain in the same seated position for prolonged period of time. Our body is designed to move, not remaining stationary in the same sitting position.

Previously, we posted “Sitting – is it really that bad?” and discussed the idea of breaking up prolonged periods of sitting. We also used a lovely water analogy to help explain the problem around this. If you would like to read the explanation, check out the post!

But I would like to spend this time today to focus on what we can do to break up our sitting time and move more. Some options include:

      • Walking while talking on the phone, even inside your house
      • Standing at a bench to work instead of sitting at a desk
      • Leave the remote next to the TV so you need to stand up to change the channel
      • Fold the clean clothes while standing
      • Walk or stand while you read
      • Sweep the floor, rather than always reaching for the vacuum
      • Rake your leaves rather than blowing them into the street 

If you have any other ideas on how to move more and break up sitting time, let us know in the comments below!

#2 – Game based exercise

There are many ways to be active while having fun and playing games. You could play a game like Twister, Hyperdash, Charades, Hide-and-Seek, building a blanket fort or even Duck Duck Goose! All of these can be played within your own home and, let’s be honest, us adults would still enjoy playing these games we loved as kids!

Alternatively, depending on how large your backyard is, you can take the games outdoors. A great option is sports – cricket, basketball, soccer, footy, the list is endless! If you have the equipment, then why not head on out and use it? I know for me personally I enjoy playing downball with my sister, and all it takes is a $2 high bounce ball (or even a tennis ball). Even riding a bike, jumping on a trampoline or pogo stick, or building your own obstacle course are all great options! Your only limitation is your imagination.

If you need some inspiration, check out this obstacle course video. Here you’ll find 10 stations that we created using items you can find in your home, any of which could be used to create your own homemade obstacle course.

#3 – Visit the home gym

Everyone’s home gym will be different. Some of us will have been able to get to the shops before all of the home exercise equipment was sold out, some of us weren’t so lucky. But there is no advantage or disadvantage to this. Just as there are many ways to exercise with equipment, there are just as many options without it.

In our previous post “No gym? No problem! Effective ways to exercise outside the gym!“, we discussed various ways that you can exercise outside of the gym. This includes activities that can be done at home with no equipment. Check it out if you need some ideas for home exercise!

Alternatively, if you would like some equipment to use at home, you can hire or buy equipment from Simply Stronger. Check out our website or contact us for more information.

#4 – Enjoy the great outdoors

The great outdoors – I’m sure we think of rainforests, a lake or a nice walking path when we think of this. But, we have our own version of the great outdoors at home – our backyard! 

You don’t even need to do anything too strenuous. Yes, walking around, playing a game or doing some exercise would be the most beneficial thing to do. But, just getting outside into the fresh air is great for our mental health, especially when we are at home all day.

#5 – Step away from the screens

I’m sure we are all aware of how prolonged time using electronic screens can impact us. Many of us spend hours upon hours staring at electronic screens. It has become an integral part of our society and many people rely on this technology.

Although our iPhones, computers and televisions are a great way to access information, stay in touch with friends a family and play games – and I can’t forget it’s importance in working from home and online learning – too much time in front of screens has a negative impact on not only our physical health, but our mental health too.

Thankfully, any of the methods discussed in this post can be used as effective ways to break up screen time. You can stand up and move around, play a game (away from the screen), complete a puzzle, or go outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Now I understand this may be difficult for those who are addicted to their screens (yes kids, I’m talking to you!), but it is essential that we don’t spend hours on end staring at a screen. 

#6 – Exercise your mind

Just as important as it is to take care of our body by being active, it is also important to look after our mind. Mental health has been coming to the forefront over the last few years and it has become clear that it is a problem within our society. From depression to anxiety and even stress, mental health cannot be ignored.

Yes, being active and getting outside is great for our mental health. Even reducing screen time is helpful with this. But keeping our mind sharp and in tip top condition is just as important. 

A great way to do this is by doing some puzzles. This could be a jig-saw puzzle, crossword, word search, sudoko or riddles. Anything that challenges your mind and makes you think is going to be good for you, especially if the alternative is watching more TV and letting your mind go to sleep!

#7 – Be social

Although we can’t go out and meet up with friends, it is important o remain social. We crave human interaction! Thankfully, we are in the golden era for social media. There are so many ways to stay in touch with our friends and family. Even if social media isn’t your forte, why not pick up the phone and give them a call? I know the younger generation love texting and social media, but that isn’t for everyone. And hearing someone’s voice over the phone is just as valuable as seeing them on Zoom or keeping touch on social media.

Want to know more?

Keep your eyes open for more posts coming in the near future – there will be a new post every Wednesday!

In the meantime, here are some related posts that may interest you:

And here is a little sneak peek into some posts that will be coming your way over the next few weeks:

      • Hey kids, did you know exercise can be fun?
      • Exercise for mental health 
      • Strategies to overcome obstacles
      • Strengthening your bones

Please leave a comment below if you have any topic ideas that you would like us to discuss!

We are here to help!

Exercise Physiologists specialise in helping people identify the type of exercise that will help them achieve their goals – not just in a gym with weights, but to include in your everyday life! If you would like some assistance in determining the best type fo exercise for you to help you achieve your goals, contact us to organise an appointment to see one of our Exercise Physiologists.

Follow us on Social Media!


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References

Australian Institute of Health and Wellness, 2019, Overweight and Obesity, Australian Institute of Health and Wellness, retrieved 20/07/2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/overweight-obesity/about 

Photos provided by free to use sounds, Joseph Pearson, Ross Sneddon and Zuza Galczynska via Unsplash.com