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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Fitness Through Play

Jul 30, 2021 05:05PM ● By Shae Marcus

by Cheryl Natusch 

We live in an age in which the phrase “screen time” is a common theme in every household. With the rise in clocked screen time hours comes the steady decline in movement and outdoor play time for children. Unless a child is actively involved in organized sports, there’s a severe lack in physical movement in the average child’s daily routine. It’s recommended that children 6 to 12 years of age get at least one full hour of moderate to strong activity per day to maintain good health and to combat the ever-rising childhood obesity epidemic. This means engaging in large muscle movements that increase heart rate levels at a steady rate. Rather than take this suggestion to a formal level, children can benefit from simply turning to play to reach this minimum daily physical activity requirement. A formal fitness and/or weight training program is not necessary for elementary school-age children. Children can gain all the muscular and bone strength they need through running, jumping and dancing around.  

Along with physical benefits, play also helps to promote healthy socio-emotional growth when involved in group games. Playing together as a group can help teach children social lessons such as collaboration, sharing and taking turns. It also helps to develop important gross motor skills such as balance, coordination and body awareness.  

Fitness through play is a great way to encourage a healthy level of moderate activity without having to push the idea of fitness onto a possibly reluctant child. Introducing fun activities and games done outdoors can inspire any child to get moving no matter how much they may resist the word exercise. Not only are games and creative fitness activities motivating for the children, but it also gives parents an opportunity to engage with them more to encourage this healthy movement.  

Some of our favorite kids’ fitness through play ideas that anyone can incorporate at home: 

 * Build a creative obstacle course using discount/dollar store items like agility cones, small plastic hurdles and hula hoops (which also can be used to jump in when flat). Be creative with the objects. Make sure the course incorporates jumping, balancing, crawling, and running as circuit. Put on some fun music and the kids will enjoy it for quite a long time. 

* Bring back the jump rope and jump rope games. Kids love to do it and it’s incredible cardiovascular exercise.  

* Keep it simple by teaching kids how to Frisbee, hula hoop and play hopscotch—timeless games and activities that never go out of style and are fun as well as physically beneficial.  

* Keep plenty of sports equipment on hand for free play time such as balls, a small trampoline, a bicycle or a simple basketball hoop attached to a garage or a free-standing one.  

* When weather calls for indoor play, try a game of freeze dance or have a dance party.  Our studio favorite game is called "Night at the Museum." It is the same as freeze dance except someone is chosen as the night guard and when the music stops, the night guard walks around and sees if anyone moves.  

No matter which activity is chosen, free play time is extremely important in the growth and development of a child. As childhood obesity rates continue to steadily climb, it’s important to get kids inspired to move through play and adopt healthy habits at a young age.  

Source: Cheryl Natusch is a certified fitness trainer and owner of Laughing Hearts Yoga & Movement, at 912 W. Kings Hwy., Haddon Heights. For more information about their kids’ movement classes and all other programs, call 856-520-7581 or visit LaughingHeartsYoga.com.