Children aged six to 17 years are recommended a minimum of 60 minutes of physical exercise daily. This target can be achieved by doing simple exercises for kids at home, contrary to the belief that only complex exercises or strenuous outdoor sports are helpful. Children are increasingly getting used to a sedentary lifestyle, which is detrimental to their physical and psychological development.
Physical activity and fitness are important at all ages but very important for overall growth during childhood. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, regular exercise helps develop stronger bones, greater muscle strength, improved energy levels, flexibility, and better concentration in academics (1) (2). Read this post to learn some easy yet effective exercises that your child can practice at home.
15 Fun Exercises For Kids To Do At Home
Aerobic exercises are physical exercises that increase the heart rate by increasing the oxygen consumption of an individual. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that most of your child’s 60 minutes of daily physical activity should be aerobic activities, like walking, running, or anything that makes their hearts beat faster (2). This is important as cardio exercises help strengthen the heart muscles.
Cycling is an easy workout for the ankle and thighs (3). Besides, it relaxes the mind and body by letting the child enjoy the scenic beauty around.
- Find a suitable location for your child to cycle.
- Make sure it’s in a greener area, far from traffic.
- Make sure that your kid wears the correct riding gear – long-sleeved tees, long pants, covered shoes, knee, and elbow pads.
- The child must wear a helmet that fits their size.
- Let them cycle during the daytime or afternoons and not after dark.
- Enhances joint mobility
- Decreases stress levels
- Improves cardiovascular fitness
- Increases muscle strength
Rope skipping is a simple and effective morning exercise that can enhance physical fitness and improve agility and stamina in children. It also relieves stress and improves blood circulation (4).
- Choose the right rope — one that’s not too long and one that reaches nearly the shoulders when folded in half.
- The ropes should have handles that are comfortable to grip – neither too light nor too heavy.
- Stand up and hold the rope handles in both hands.
- Extend the hands and forearms a foot away from the body at an angle of 45°.
- Step over the rope; the rope will hang behind.
- Without moving the hands, use wrists to swing it over the head.
- Hop over when the rope comes towards the front of the feet.
- Use the ankles, but do not bend the knees, to jump.
- For a safe exercise, pick up a comfortable pace.
- Regulates the heart rate
- Tones the upper and lower body muscles
- Improves balance, agility, and coordination
- Prevents diseases like osteoporosis
- One of the finest exercises for weight loss
- Works out the whole body
Running is a full-body workout that can vary in intensity. This exercise burns a lot of energy and demands more effort from the heart, lungs, and muscles. It is also an easy exercise since it requires minimal equipment (5).
- Warm-up with jumping or doing arm swings. This will prepare the muscles for a good run.
- Look ahead on the ground to avoid tripping.
- While running, land mid-foot and not on the toes, as landing on toes will make the calves tighter.
- Keep the feet pointed straight ahead.
- Keep the hands at the waist level while running and not too up the chest.
- The hands and arms should be as relaxed as possible while running.
- Keep checking the postures — head high, back straight and level, shoulders relaxed.
- Maintains weight
- Boosts confidence
- Relieves stress
- Tones the legs
- Helps fight depression
Jogging means sustained running at a slow and steady pace. When compared to running, jogging is less taxing and requires less energy, but can be sustained for a longer time.
- Find a safe route to jog.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
- Start with a warm-up before jogging.
- Pick up a slow but good pace.
- Keep the head straight and look ahead.
- Don’t hunch the shoulders; keep the hips stable and don’t let them swing.
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Strengthens muscles
- Builds strong bones
- Helps maintain a steady bodyweight
- Provides freshness to the mind and reduces fatigue
Strength Training Exercises
A set of exercises that work on muscle-building, bone-strengthening, and enhancing the stamina comes under strength training exercises. Children and adolescents are recommended to invest three days a week into such activities (2).
It is an ideal exercise for strengthening vital core muscles covering the abdomen, back, hips, and pelvis. This exercise could also help improve posture and strengthen the muscles of the lower back (6).
- Rest the forearms on the ground.
- Keep the arms parallel to the body at a shoulder-width distance.
- Look at a spot on the floor to have the spine and neck neutralized.
- Keep the head in line with the back.
- Slightly lift the legs and the core a little upwards with the tip of the toes on the ground and hold it.
- The weight of the body will be distributed between the forearms and toes.
- Retain the position for 30 seconds to a minute. Do multiple sets of 30 seconds to a minute in one exercise session.
- Eliminates back pain
- Gives a toned belly
- Improves posture and balance
- Enhances muscle flexibility
A push-up is a common calisthenics exercise that provides a complete body workout. During push-ups, several muscle groups such as the arms, chest, abdomen, hips, and legs get exercised at once (7).
- Lie face-down on the floor. The weight of the body will be on the chest.
- The hands are to be palms-down on the floor.
- Raise the body using the arms, with weight supported by the hands and the balls of the feet.
- Go down by lowering the torso on the ground, as the elbows make a 90° angle.
- Keep the head facing ahead, and the body straight through the exercise.
- Breathe in as you move down and breathe out while rising.
- The push strength should come from the chest and the shoulders together.
- Repeat this lowering and lifting steadily, if you are comfortable.
- Good for the cardiovascular system
- Prevents lower back injuries
- Improves posture
- Good for working out all the body muscles
Crunches are a multi-joint exercise that focuses on abdominal muscles. It could help improve agility and the overall fitness levels of the child.
- Lie flat on the floor with feet hip-width apart.
- Keep the knees bent.
- Interlace the hands behind the head, with the thumbs behind the ears.
- Tilt the chin slightly up.
- Start pulling the abdomen inwards gently.
- Curl up by lifting the neck, head, and shoulder blades off the ground.
- Hold the posture for a moment and lower the body to the ground, slowly.
- Builds the core strength
- Increases the flexibility of the torso
- Works out all the abdominal muscles
8. Forward lunges
The forward lunge focuses on improving the strength of the muscles and joints in the hips, knees, and ankles. Besides, it helps improve balance and core stability (8). This is a one-leg bodyweight exercise with good leverage.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and keep the back straight.
- Look straight onto a wall, as that helps in balancing.
- Move the right leg forward and lean the body ahead — 70% of the bodyweight will now be on the front foot. Make sure that the upper body and the back are still straight.
- Lower the body until the right knee makes a 90° angle. Keep the back straight.
- The lower leg must be parallel to the ground, and the thighs perpendicular.
- Use the right foot to push upward and return to the 90° position.
- Repeat this forward lunge with the other leg.
- Strengthens the legs and hips
- Great for the core strength
- Improves flexibility
- Enhances body symmetry
- Good for spinal health
Stretching is a safe and useful activity that can help improve flexibility and postural awareness (9). Besides being an exercise, stretching is also imperative before starting any other physical activity.
- Sit with the back straight.
- Stretch both the legs as wide as comfortable.
- Hold the right knee with the right hand.
- Lift the left hand to the top of the head and lean towards the right.
- While leaning rightwards, stretch the left part of the body as much as you comfortably can.
- Keep breathing normally.
- Repeat it on the other side.
- Increases the range of movement in the joints
- Reduces tension in muscles
- Improves muscle coordination
- Enhances blood circulation in the body
10. Bridge lift
Bridge lift is a core strengthening exercise that works on the arms, thighs, abs, and hips (10).
- Lie flat on the back; keep the hands on the sides, and the knees bent.
- Place the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Pushing the body with the heels, lift the hips off the ground while keeping the back straight.
- Breathe out and hold the position for about a second.
- Come back to the initial position while breathing in.
- Reduces lower back and knee pain
- Strengthens the glutes
- Improves body posture
- Strengthens the core
- Stretches the chest, back, and spine
- Enhances flexibility and improves balance
11. Backstretch (child pose)
This is a non-twisting pose of yoga that works well on back muscles. It can also relax strained back muscles, along with the muscles of the arms and shoulders.
- Kneel on the mat with the hips on the heels.
- Keeping the toes together, open the knees hip-distance apart.
- Lean forward and drape the body over the thighs, so that the forehead rests on the floor.
- Stretch the arms straight to the front.
- While maintaining this pose, breathe deeply and relax.
- Stretches the thighs, ankles, and hips
- Reduces stress and fatigue
- Relaxes the upper body muscles
- Aids digestion
- Elongates the lower back
It is an effective strength training exercise that requires several muscles in your upper and lower body to work simultaneously (11). Squats might help lose weight and manage obesity.
- Keep the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend the knees like sitting on a chair while holding the heels on the ground.
- While doing this, pull in the abs and keep the back straight.
- Push the hips back and lower as much as it’s comfortable.
- Inhale while lowering and exhale while rising.
- Improves blood circulation
- No cellulite formation
- Good for the digestive system
- The non-impact exercise does not strain the neck
- Can be done anywhere, without any accessories
- Burns unnecessary fat and maintains bodyweight
13. Overhead shoulder stretch
Stretching might help the muscles to perform better. This overhead shoulder and hand exercise is an arm workout to help strengthen the muscles.
- Stand straight with the shoulders slightly stretched back, feet shoulder-width apart, and chest forward.
- Raise the left arm over the head, bending the elbow and placing the hand behind the neck.
- With the right hand, grasp the left elbow and gently give it a pull behind the head.
- Hold this stretch.
- Relax the body, repeat with the other arm.
- Improves the flexibility of the shoulder muscles, making them stronger
- Increases the range of movement
- Releases stress and enable proper circulation of blood
- Alleviates fatigue after a stressful day
- Can be done anytime and anywhere
Splits stretch the thighs and pelvis muscles substantially, thus improving the overall flexibility of the lower body. This exercise requires constant practice to achieve a perfect split.
- Sit on the ground and stretch the legs out to the side.
- Bend forward, stretching your arms, and bring the chest as close to the floor as possible.
- While straightening, take deep breaths.
- Stretches the thigh muscles
- Opens the hip flexors
- Develops perseverance
- Strengthens the muscles
15. Side leg raise
The side leg raise could help strengthen and tone the muscles of the hips and inner thighs (12).
- Lie down on one side.
- Extend the arm close to the floor and fold it at the elbow to support the head with the hand.
- Bend the other arm with the hand on the floor in front of the body.
- Place the legs one above the other and keep them straight.
- Slowly raise the top leg as high as possible while supporting the body with both the arms.
- Hold the position for a few seconds and return to the starting position.
- Builds glutes and hip muscles
- Improves the adductor muscle group, which is essential for everyday activities like balancing, walking, and lifting things
- Makes movements more comfortable and stress-free
- Tones the thigh and hip muscles
- Increases lean muscle mass
- Reduces excess fat
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can children exercise easily at home?
To encourage your children to exercise at home, include exercise in their daily routine, choose fun and age-appropriate exercises, plan a convenient time and place for them to exercise, and join in with them (13).
2. Should children exercise before school?
Yes. A study conducted on children with ADHD and typically developing kids showed improved cognitive responses and attentiveness in children if they exercised before school (14).
Children are recommended an hour of physical activity every day for their overall health and development. Aerobic activities, such as walking, jogging, running, rope skipping, are whole-body cardio exercises that improve heart and muscle strength. Whereas planks, push-ups, forward lunges, and other strength training exercises help strengthen core muscles and improve posture. Children require parental encouragement at first, and including physical activities in family time is a good way to do it. You can make a weekly schedule of exercises for kids at home or involve your children in sports such as football, badminton, basketball, or martial arts such as karate to achieve fitness goals enjoyably.
Infographic: Home Exercises For Children, Along With Their Benefits
Given the current lifestyle and eating habits, exercising is integral to a child’s overall health and well-being. They can also help build confidence and ensure mental well-being in children. So, look at the infographic below to learn about simple exercises and their advantages for your child.
2. How much physical activity do children need?; Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
3. Let’s Ride Our Bikes to School!; University of South Florida
4. Rope Skipping for Fun; Government of Hong Kong
5. Running and jogging – health benefits; Better Health Channel; Victoria State Government
6. 7 health benifits of plank exercises; Healthcorps
7. The rise of push-ups: A classic exercise that can help you get stronger; Harvard Health
8. Lunges; University of California, Davis
9. Mindful Stretching Guide; University Health Services – UC Berkeley
10. Effect of modified bridge exercise on trunk muscle activity in healthy adults: a cross sectional study; ScienceDirect
11. The lowdown on squats; Harvard Health
12. Straight-Leg Raise to the Outside; British Columbia
13. 11 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Be Physically Active; American Academy of Pediatrics
14. Betsy Hoza et al.; A Randomized Trial Examining the Effects of Aerobic Physical Activity on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Young Children; Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (2016)
15. The benefits of cycling for children and families; Sustrans
16. Running for kids: a helpful guide; National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
17. Importance of Stretching for the Young Athlete; Children’s Health of Orange County (CHOC)