Get Kids Moving After COVID-19


It’s been hard for kids to stay active during the pandemic and even student athletes may be feeling out of shape. Now’s a great time for families to get moving ahead of the new school year.

Most kids should be getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day including three days a week of aerobic exercise and three days a week of exercise meant to build strength and endurance.

However, Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital sports medicine doctor Samantha Smith, MD, said kids could be prone to injuries if they push it too fast, too soon.

“I think it’s really important to emphasize patience. To build in opportunities for kids to slowly increase their exercise level. That includes both the intensity and the duration of their exercise,” Dr. Smith said.

Take it slow

She recommends taking one day on and one day off for all new activities, starting with just 20 to 30 minutes. Kids can then work towards getting the 60 minutes of activity per day.

Kids who are used to playing sports could be prone to injury as well, because they may be pushing themselves too hard. Athletes need to remember to ease back in to their sport, taking at least one rest day per week for the body to rest.

Stretch and hydrate

To get moving again, kids should always stretch before participating in sports or other activities. Dr. Smith said dynamic stretches such as lunges and jumping jacks help warm up the body in a safe way.

Just like with adults, kids need to stay hydrated, especially when it is still hot outside. However, kids don’t always need to load up on sports drinks either. Water is the best fluid to drink during bouts of exercise lasting less than 60 minutes.

Creative exercise for kids

Not every kid will be joining a team sport in the fall. So families should look at ways to get moving in a way that’s fun and engaging.

“It doesn’t need to involve spending a lot of money or getting a lot of fancy clothes or equipment. It’s really about moving your body in a way that’s fun and gets your heart rate elevated,” Dr. Smith said.

Some activities she recommends includes:

  • Jumping rope
  • Going for a walk on the beach
  • Going for a hike
  • Trying Yoga
  • Trying kid friendly exercises on YouTube

Parents should just make sure any new activities are appropriate for their child’s age and activity level.

Recognizing injuries

No matter what kids are doing to stay active, if they are experiencing pain that does not go away the next day that could be the sign of an overuse injury. Dr. Smith said if that happens, parents should talk with their pediatrician or a sports medicine doctor like herself and her pediatric orthopedic colleagues at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital.