Extension Notes: Help Young People Get More Physical Activity – by REBECCA KONOPKA


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With the majority of Kentuckians staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, young people may be getting more screen time and less of the physical activity they need.Regular physical activity is extremely important, as it aids in young people’s growth and development, contributing to healthy bones and muscles and cardiovascular fitness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends children between the ages of 6 and 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity each day. At least three days a week, the physical activity should be on the vigorous end. Youth also need to engage in physical activities that promote healthy bones and muscles at least three times a week. While this may seem daunting, youth do not have to complete the recommended physical activity all at once. They can spread it out over the day, such as four, 15-minute sessions or six, 10-minute activities.

Ways that youth can get their required aerobic physical activity needs include riding their bikes, playing on their swing sets, doing cartwheels or other gymnastics moves, running, any kind of sport and vigorous dancing. You may appreciate that young people can also get physical activity by doing house and yard work. Games such as tug-o-war, climbing on home playground equipment, gymnastics and yoga can strengthen young people’s muscles. Jumping rope, hopping, skipping, running, gymnastics and any sport like basketball that requires a quick change of direction are great activities that help strengthen young people’s bones.

Use fun family activities to encourage movement. Play an “as if” game where you instruct your young person to act like something else for 30 seconds. For example, have youth jump in place, as if they were popcorn popping, run in place, as if they were an Olympic sprinter or march, as if they were in a marching band. You can incorporate math into physical activity by having young people act out math answers. For example, you can ask youth to hop up and down 10 minus 3 times. Ask them to provide you with the answer.

Let your 4-H’ers creativity run wild by having them brainstorm and design ways to get more physical activity. Have them list the type of exercise, duration, equipment needed and directions for completing the activity. They may want to draw picture of how to complete their newly designed physical activity.

Maintaining healthy habits like physical activity can follow young people throughout their lives. Research shows children who are more active when they are young tend to be more active adults. For more ideas on increasing your child’s physical activity, contact the Carter County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.


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