Schools are gradually reopening but it will be a while before PE lessons and school sports are allowed again

Parents should encourage regular exercise – in the form of cycling, running, walking and home workouts for their children, even after they head back to school.

This is according to Anca Wessels, a Momentum Multiply expert in Biokinetics and Sport Message Therapy, who says that young people of all ages require daily physical activity to ensure their healthy growth and development. “Physical activity is very important for all of us, but especially so for kids and young people.

“In addition to improving their cardiovascular fitness, strengthening their bones and muscles, and reducing the risk of heart disease; creating healthy habits around physical activity from a young age will stay with your kids throughout their lives, setting them up for a healthier future.”

What counts as a “workout” – how much is enough?

Wessels says that kids and teens between the ages of six and 17 should get a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. “These activities should include a combination of aerobic movements, strengthening exercises and stretches. A variety of exercises is essential to ensure a variety of muscles being used,” she notes, offering some examples of well-known exercises and stretches to incorporate.

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These include: cardio exercises, strength exercises, stretches, hopscotch, squats, tree pose, skipping, handstands, frog pose, jumping jacks, push-ups/sit-ups, forward bends, dancing, wheelbarrow walks, cat/cow.

Use household items to make things interesting

Kids have amazing imaginations, so when creating a playful environment, Wessels says that anything goes. “For younger children, make sure that you include different colours and shapes, prompting a variety of movements when setting up at-home workout routines. A great idea is to attach strings to different coloured socks or balloons and hang them at different levels from the ceiling or outside patio. Play a game of jumping or punching to touch all the different heights.”

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What about unwilling teens?

“Of course, as kids get older, it becomes more difficult to get them moving,” notes Wessels. “For stubborn teens, a potential way around this is to incentivise them. Set up weekly goals for them to complete and they earn rewards such as cash or treats for being healthy, active and safe.

“This works particularly well when you are part of a rewards programme like Momentum Multiply – as it essentially does the work for you. Your kids’ physical activity can contribute to your rewards level for cashbacks or discounts at partner stores, thus earning them their latest gadgets. It can be an effective way to encourage teens to try and continue new activities,” adds Wessels.

“Another fun way is to find something that excites them, like creating mini soccer goals or encouraging them to learn a fast-paced popular dance routine on YouTube or TikTok that they can share with their friends.”

What if your child isn’t feeling well?

“Physical activity is a natural movement, and it should be encouraged as such,” says Wessels.

“If your child is feeling unwell, don’t stress; rather let them rest and recover as this is also important.”

However, if a child appears to be struggling with physical issues such as muscle imbalance or coordination, she advises parents to consult a medical professional.

Schools encouraging digital physical activity

“Schools also have to find new ways to encourage kids to stay active,” says Wessels. For kids who have access to wearable devices or smartphones, she suggests they use these to record their physical activity and share with their friends and school and the school can keep a log and select a winner each week.

“This will encourage them to stay in touch with their friends by setting challenges for each other such as how many push-ups they can do, or throwing and catching against a wall. It’s a really good way to stay motivated to try something new or to master a skill and drive their competitive edge.”

Safety measures to take into consideration during COVID-19

Kids are all about fun, so Wessels believes that the best way to translate new information is by adding fun to it. “Introduce songs that teach the kids how to keep their workout space clean and hygienic, and make washing hands a regular, fun habit.”

Anca Wessels suggests the following websites for great free workouts:

· www.fitnessblender.com

· www.kidshealth.org

· www.thekidsgym.co.za

· www.youtube.com – the body coach TV (PE with JOE)

· https://www.romper.com/p/10-online-exercise-yoga-kid-classes-to-make-up-for-pe-22627985

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.