Health + Behavior

No excuses! Tips to keep kids fit over the summer

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Running
UCLA

School’s out for summer, and that means no physical education classes and no regular exercise for most students. While simply relaxing over summer vacation may sound like more fun than working out, it’s important for kids to keep up their physical activity year-round.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that young people age 6–17 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Exercise helps improve strength and endurance, builds healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, and increases self-esteem.

UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity and helping students develop healthy fitness habits that will last a lifetime. The largest PE-focused organization in the country, UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind installs state-of-the-art fitness centers in underfunded middle and high schools and provides PE teachers with a unique curriculum focused on mastering basic physical tasks.

“I always encourage students to keep active in the summer,” says Martin Wurmlinger, a PE teacher at Irving STEAM Magnet Middle School in Los Angeles, who's affiliated with the UCLA program. ”I stress just getting out and finding an activity that keeps them moving and raises heart rate levels.”

PE teachers in the program came up with these exercise tips for kids (and adults) that can be done anywhere any time:

  • Create a circuit program. This will hit all five components of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition and flexibility. For example, do a set of push-ups, an abdominal exercise, a movement that raises heart rate (jumping jacks or high knees), a leg movement (squats or lunges), then a stretch. “Time yourself and see how many times you can complete the cycle in 6 to 10 minutes,” suggests Wurmlinger.
  • Make it a game. Set up a game in which you pretend to jump rope across America, Asia, Europe or wherever. Wear a pedometer and at the end of the jumping session, mark the pedometer mile number and track it on a map. Once you’ve gone the equivalent of the nation or continent’s width, celebrate with a healthy dinner at a restaurant that serves the food of that region,” says Boa Hoang, a PE teacher at Edwin Markham Middle School in Los Angeles. He also recommends checking out exercise apps. “For kids who like to stay connected to their smartphones, there are many options available that provide a 7- to 15-minute workout.”
  • Try burpees. “A burpee is a full-body exercise used for strength training and aerobic exercise,” says PE teacher Cathi Cornell of Christopher Columbus Middle School in Los Angeles. To do a burpee, start in standing position, then drop to a squat with your hands on the ground. Kick back your feet to a plank position, then return to a squat and jump from the squat position. Or, she suggests, if you have access to a pool, swim two laps at full speed, then rest 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • Turn off the screen. “Summer is a good time to simply go outside and play,” says John Kruse, the PE teacher at Alfred Bernhard Nobel Middle School in Los Angeles. Videos to exercise indoors are a good option if it’s too hot, or you can wait until it cools off in the evening and go for a brisk hike.

“I encourage students to do physical fitness activities with friends or family,” adds Wurmlinger.”That’s usually more fun and a great motivator.”

For more information on UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind, visit www.uclahealth.org/soundbodysoundmind.

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