Baylor Expert Shares Tips to Help Kids Maintain, Improve Fitness During Time Out of School

"Parents should engage in active games with their children. If the parent is working from home, take short breaks and play with your child," said Baylor fitness expert Paul Gordon, Ph.D. (Getty Images)
March 19, 2020

WACO, Texas (March 19, 2020) – Millions of children and teens throughout the United States are relegated to their homes in attempt to help “flatten the curve” and spread of COVID-19.

As parents struggle to carve out a new normal for themselves and their children, a Baylor University professor says physical fitness should still be a priority.

Paul Gordon, Ph.D., professor and chair of Baylor University’s department of health, human performance and recreation, is recognized nationally as a top expert in muscular fitness and health outcomes. His areas of expertise include physical activity and lifestyle-based research related to obesity.

“Beyond improving your health, physical activity will also improve your mental state,” Gordon said. “A sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is often felt after exercise. Consequently, when you need a mood lift either from ‘cabin fever’ as a result of being shut in or the stress of our current health crisis, take an exercise break. It will help you keep your spirits up.” 

In the following Q&A, Gordon shares tips to help parents and children stay fit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Q: With millions of kids now out of school due to coronavirus – and without the benefits of a gym class – what advice would you give parents and guardians about helping those kids maintain or improve fitness?

A: With the onset of school closures and recommendations to limit groups, parents do find themselves challenged to figure out a new routine that encourages healthy living such as opportunities for exercise. Given the current challenges we are facing to prevent the spread of this dangerous disease, parents need to step up and actively oversee their children’s activities. The following points are important considerations:

  • Engage in Active Parenting. Many children/adolescents will be engaging in remote learning formats through much, if not all, of the remaining school year. Consequently, parents will need to assist their kids, particularly the younger children, with access and supervise their work. We cannot expect teachers to have the same control as when they are in class. Similarly, opportunities for engaging in physical activity need to be planned and encouraged and where possible supervised.
  • Some exercise is better than none. This concept is true for adults and kids alike. Don’t give up on getting exercise completely if you can’t plan a full workout. A little is good, and more is better. Remember, exercise is helpful for more than weight control. It improves cardiovascular and skeletal health as well. It can even bolster your immunity response.

Q: Are there exercises that kids from kindergarten on up can do? What would you recommend in terms of time and style of exercise?

A: Younger children are more likely to engage in activity if they have someone to play with. Parents should engage in active games with their children. If the parent is working from home, take short breaks and play with your child.

Active games that involve running, skipping, jumping and climbing are perfect types of activities. Take them for walks in the park or neighborhood.

Once children hit adolescence, they are more inclined to perform limited stationary exercises such as on a stationary bicycle or cross trainer. Throwing the ball and playing controlled games (tag, kickball, etc.) can be effective. Playing with your child is an excellent way to spend time and build memories that last a lifetime.

Older children can also engage in regular calisthenics such as push-ups, jumping jacks, wall sits, etc. Make it a game or contest and you’ll likely get their involvement.

Q: Do you recommend any online plans or resources for parents to follow?

A: There are a number of online resources available. A few examples are listed below:

Q: What are the negatives associated with being sedentary – whether it’s in front of a television or sitting and spending too much time in front of a screen?

A: A sedentary lifestyle has numerous untoward effects on health. In fact, even individuals who are meeting basic activity levels can be at increased risk for diseases if they are overly sedentary. Increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and metabolic abnormalities (i.e., diabetes) occur from sedentary living. Obesity has reached epidemic levels in our society, and a primary factor is sedentariness. It’s important to take breaks from sitting and get up and walk around.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT ROBBINS COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SCIENCES AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

The Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences at Baylor University was established in 2014, a result of identified priorities for strengthening the health sciences through Baylor’s strategic vision, Pro Futuris, and the University’s Illuminate strategic plan. The anchor academic units that form Robbins College – Communication Sciences and Disorders; Family and Consumer Sciences; Health, Human Performance and Recreation; Public Health; and Division of Health Professions – share a common purpose: improving health and quality of life. The College’s curricula promotes a team-based approach to transformational education and research that has established interdisciplinary research collaborations to advance solutions for improving quality of life for individuals, families and communities. For more information, visit www.baylor.edu/chhs.

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