Movement and activity is essential for both children and families for their physical and mental health – the Chief Medical Officer recommends at least 60 minutes physical activity daily for 5-18 year olds – but that can be difficult when trying to home school children, follow social distancing guidelines and sometimes with little or no outdoor space. Here Dr Clare Roscoe, Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health at the University of Derby, talks about what we can do to encourage children to get active during lockdown.
Wicks does it well
By far one of the most popular options for parents has been the free online ‘PE with Joe’ 30 -minute sessions run by fitness coach and healthy cookbook author Joe Wicks on his YouTube channel. The advertising revenue for the videos has, incidentally, raised almost £100,000 for the NHS. These sessions are fantastic for getting children active first thing in the morning and ready for the day. What has been great about these sessions is that we are seeing parents/guardians getting involved or supporting their children to be active. The sessions are filmed indoors, so are showing how easy it is to do them in a child’s own environment.
Children are also participating in other online physical activity sessions – for example yoga, football challenges and online versions of their existing afterschool clubs via YouTube, Zoom and Facebook.
The importance of exercise like this and its benefits has been acknowledged by some schools, who have been advertising and promoting them to ensure that children get their daily physical activity and have a balance in their home-schooling schedule.
However, it is important to ensure sessions are appropriate for children and are run by qualified individuals, so be sure to follow reputable trainers when using online sessions.
Finding a space
If children are short of space, they could design their own circuits sessions which could be completed in a limited indoor or outdoor space, for example, star jumps, jumping jacks, skipping, squats and stair climbers. All of these exercises can be done in a small space, even on the spot, and can be mixed up in any order to make it fun and varied.
Providing social distancing rules are observed (currently one hour of outdoor activity, keeping a two-metre distance from other individuals), children can exercise outside with their family. This can involve a walk, run or cycle in the fresh air.
Carving out time for fundamental movement skills
To help keep children engaged with home-schooling, try splitting up sessions up with 10-minute breaks, which could also involve indoor activities such as running on the spot or star jumps. These activities will allow the children to be active and concentrate better on school activities in the long run.
If there is the opportunity for going outdoors in a ‘lunch break’ for example, then try running, skipping, hopping, galloping (locomotor skills), kicking a ball, hitting a ball with a bat, bouncing a ball or throwing a ball (object control skills). Completing these different activities will help children’s fundamental movement skills and if they become competent in these skills, they will be more confident to engage in physical activity not just in this ‘lockdown period’, but throughout their life.