Back to School: Keep Exercise at the Front of the Class

by Jessica Cox, RD

Back to School: Keep Exercise at the Front of the Class

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and teens should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, but less than half of kids are currently meeting the recommendations.

“We know that regular physical activity for kids is just as important as it is for adults,” says Kristi King, MPH, RDN, LD, CNSC, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It helps to decrease blood pressure, control weight, and prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Regular physical activity can also influence academic behavior and performance.”

As school returns to session and the days get shorter, it can be more challenging to ensure that your child is engaging in enough daily activity. But you don’t have to do it all at once — every bit counts toward the goal. There are a lot of ways to work in short chunks of physical activity that will add up over the course of the day.

Tips to Stay Active

Follow these simple tips to help your child enjoy staying active year-round.

Make It Fun.Physical activity doesn’t have to be structured exercise. In fact, many activities that your child already enjoys can be considered physical activity if they’re up and moving. Try these activities that you can do inside.

  • Have a dance party. Play upbeat music and dance with you child, or try dance videos or dance video games.
  • Organize a hula hoop contest.
  • Play a fast-paced game of "Simon Says."
  • Play “Keep the Balloon Up” — blow up a balloon and have the kids run around trying to keep it in the air.

Avoid Sitting. Several studies have found associations between total sitting time and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Many leisure activities, like watching television, playing video games and using a computer, can lead to long periods of sitting. If parents limit their child’s time in front of the screen, they will likely create space for more active pursuits.

When children are watching television, encourage bouts of physical activity during the commercial breaks, like jumping jacks, sit-ups or running in place. King recommends doing these activities with your child and making it into a contest.

Work activity into your daily routine.Walk or bike with you child to and from school, if possible, and involve kids in age-appropriate chores such as vacuuming, sweeping and raking leaves.

Choose family activities that keep you moving. “Kids are going to learn that physical activity is important by watching their parents and other role models,” King says. “I encourage parents to get active with their children and teens, so it makes it fun and beneficial for everyone!”

  • Take a walk around the neighborhood together in the afternoon or evening.
  • During the weekend, go on a bike ride or hike.
  • Play a family game of softball, basketball or tag.

Helping your child to meet these recommendations will instill patterns and habits to help them live a healthier, more active life in the future. So do it together and make sure it’s fun!

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About the author:

Jessica C Cox RD

Jessica Cox, RD

is a registered dietitian and chef with a passion for teaching people to eat healthy for a happy and delicious life. She is the culinary nutritionist at eMeals, a meal planning service that helps families across America enjoy healthy meals together. She regularly contributes original recipes and food and nutrition content to various publications.




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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