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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

The Best Exercise for Kids and Heart Health

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The Best Exercise for Kids and Heart Health

Are your kids stuck in the same ol’ exercise routine? Try these exercise ideas for kids to switch things up and get their hearts pumping.

Depending on your child’s age, some activities may be more appropriate than others. With a base knowledge of the different types of exercise, you can encourage your kid to get moving, no matter what age!

What are the different types of exercise?

First thing’s first. It’s time to go back to basics. For those who are new to physical activity, it’s critical to understand and differentiate the main categories. Physical activity can include:

Kira Penny running over sprinkler for an outdoor activity

Aerobic and anaerobic exercise are considered cardiovascular exercise and includes activities that get your heart rate up and your blood pumping!

These activities can also be considered both aerobic and anaerobic exercise depending on the intensity. Think of activities such as brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, swimming, sprinting, and stop and go sports like soccer and basketball.

Why is it important to do different types of exercise?

Much like with everything else, it’s all about balance. Just like how your kiddo can’t grow optimally by eating one type of food, they also can’t maximize their heart health by performing a single type of exercise. Check out these must-know benefits of each exercise category:

  • Strength training: Essential for building and maintaining muscles, keeping bones strong and healthy, and improving exercise endurance.
  • Cardiovascular conditioning: Also known as cardio (aerobic and anaerobic exercise), helps improve heart health, memory, mood, and sleep quality. (1,2) Not to mention, it’s also associated with decreased risk of diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (1,2)

In 2018, the government released physical activity recommendations for all ages. Check out how much activity each member of your family should be getting for optimal health and reduced disease risk: (3)

  • Ages 3-5: Physical activity throughout the day
  • Ages 6-17: 1 hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise per day, along with muscle and bone strengthening exercises at least 3 days a week. For fit-spiration, check out our muscle and bone-strengthening activities
  • Adults: A mix of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity, with 2 days or more a week of strength training, involving all muscle groups. For moderate-intensity exercise, aim for 150-300 minutes (2½ to 5 hours) per week. However, research shows additional health benefits seen for those who engage in over 5 hours each week. For vigorous activity, aim for 75-150 minutes (1 hour 15 minutes to 2½ hours) per week.

Use our Fitness Tracker that’s a simple and fun way to help track exercise for kids or as a family.

exercise for kids fitness tracker

How can your family be more active?

So, physical activity is important. And we should do lots of it. But, the question is, how? Check out these fun and creative exercises that the entire household can do to get the blood moving, muscles working, and heart pumping. Be an advocate for your family’s health to be more active, feel better, and ward off disease!

Make the exercise routine happen by fitting it into your daily life, both indoors and outdoors. Choose two to try out as a family this week! Get each family member involved in the decision-making to select a physical activity that is fun for everyone! Then, keep the positive vibes going by setting aside intentional exercise time with your family or by squeezing in some active moments during a commercial break.

Indoor Exercise for Kids and Adults:

  • Do jumping jacks
  • Take big bunny hops
  • Play leapfrog
  • Act like an animal
  • Start a dance party or freeze dance
  • Have a cleaning party
  • Climb the stairs
  • Do push-ups
  • Do sit-ups and hold each other’s feet
  • Play musical chairs
  • Start a pillow fight
  • Organize a balloon toss
  • Crab walk

Outdoor Exercises for Kids:

  • Have a relay race
  • Play tag or a variation of it (such as freeze-tag, blob tag, etc.)
  • Set up an obstacle course
  • Throw a frisbee
  • Play three flies up
  • Go hula hooping
  • Play hopscotch
  • Ride bikes, scooters, skateboards, or go rollerblading
  • Go for a family walk or hike
  • Play catch
  • Take a trip to your local pool and go swimming
  • On a warm day, turn on the sprinklers and run through them
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Get a group of friends together (once COVID safe) for a game of volleyball, basketball, baseball, or soccer
  • Take a trip to the playground
  • Go to the beach and play in the surf (make sure to practice ocean safety!)
  • Go lawn bowling
  • Play duck-duck-goose
  • Set up a game of capture the flag

Now that you have simple guidelines for how much physical activity your family should do each week, try some of these simple ways to keep the family active. Next get your copy of the Super Crew Breakfast Cookbook for Kids, which has over 100 fun nutrition activities to teach your kids how to fuel up for fitness!

super crew breakfast cookbook amazon review
Sample page from The Super Crew's Breakfast Cookbook for Kids exercise for kids search activity
  1. Strength vs. Aerobic Training: Which is more important? Accessed November 6, 2018.
  2. From Head to Toe: The Benefits of a Cardio Workout (Infographic) – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Accessed November 6, 2018.
  3. HHS. Executive Summary: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. Accessed January 3, 2019.

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About the Author

Picture of Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa Halas, MA, RD, CDE

Melissa is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's in nutrition education. She is the founder of SuperKids Nutrition Inc. Read more about her Super Crew children’s books and her experience as a registered dietitian on the About Melissa and Shop page. Discover how nutrition can help you live your best health potential through her plant-based books and newsletter on Melissa’s Healthy Living.

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