This exercise lesson helps kids understand why being active is important for their bodies and minds. The youth will experience how they feel different before and after physical activity. In this activity, kids will estimate how much daily exercise they get and think of ways they can be more active.
Ask young people, why is it good for us to move around and get exercise?
There are so many reasons why exercise is important. Some of the most important things for kids to know are:
- Exercise is good for heart health. It helps your heart pump blood all through your body. Your heart can never take a rest, so it needs to be strong! Good food and plenty of exercise help.
- Exercise can put you in a good mood. When you exercise, your body makes a chemical — called an endorphin — that helps you feel good.
- Exercise helps your body stay at, or reach, a healthy weight. The food you eat is energy that you put into your body. This energy is also called “calories.” To stay at a healthy weight, you have to use up the energy you eat. Exercise helps you do that. If you don’t use the energy, it stays in your body and can make you gain weight that you don’t need. Extra weight is hard on your heart, muscles, and bones.
Energy In vs. Energy Out
In this exercise lesson, explain that “energy in” is the food we eat and the beverages we drink. “Energy out” is the physical activity or exercise we do every day.
Talk with the children about what happens when we take more energy in than energy out and vice versa. Our bodies need energy to properly grow. If we take in more food and beverages on a regular basis than our bodies need, it is possible for us to gain excessive weight. Explain not only the importance of exercise for kids, but also how a healthy balanced diet helps our bodies grow and be healthy.
Activity: Before and After
- With the kids sitting quietly, explain that you are going to do a classroom experiment involving exercise.
- On the flip chart or whiteboard draw a vertical line down the middle. Label one column “before” and the other “after.”
- Ask for words that describe how they are feeling as they are sitting quietly in their seats. Encourage them to pay attention to what kind of mood they are in, what their bodies are telling them, and how much energy they have. They may say things like: calm, tired, antsy, bored, comfortable. Whatever they say is fine as long as they say what they actually feel. Write these words or phrases in the “before” column.
- Lead the kids in a variety of exercises, such as high-knee marching around the classroom, sit-ups, push-ups, jogging in place, or jumping jacks. See if anyone has suggestions of activities. Exercise for at least five minutes before having them return to their seats.
- Now have them share how they are feeling after exercising. Write those words in the “after” column. They may say things like: alert, awake, happy, full of energy, excited.
- Talk about the activity. Reiterate information on the positive health benefits and importance of exercise for kids:
- It helps your body maintain overall good health.
- It helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles.
- It increases flexibility.
- It feels good, if done right.
Activity: Thinking Through Exercise Habits
- Ask: How much time should kids exercise each day? How can you get more? The answer is that it’s good for kids to exercise daily for at least one hour, but wait to offer this until the kids have made suggestions of their own. Then use the following questions to help them think about their own exercise habits.
- How much exercise do you get at school? Prompt them to think about how much time they spend in gym class, and how much time outside for recess. Ask them if that adds up to one hour a day. You may want to add up the amount of time mentioned on the board.
- How much exercise do you get when you’re home after school? If young people say that they don’t get much exercise after school, ask them what they do instead of exercise. Ask what their favorite exercise is and plan how they can do more of it. They could turn off the television after 7 p.m., encourage the family to go on a walk before or after dinner, or go outdoors and play with their friends.
- What about exercise on the weekends? Ask the kids to make a list. Make sure they remember things like soccer, dance, etc., in addition to playing outside with friends. In fact, it can be anything that involves moving your body, like going for a bike ride, walking the dog, running, helping in the yard, ballet class, soccer practice, gym class—anything that gets your body moving. After the kids make their lists, ask them to write downtimes during the day that they can add these exercises to what they’re already doing so that they reach one hour a day.
After this exercise lesson is complete, encourage the group to try more simple exercises for kids at least one time, even if they don’t think they will be very good at them. Remind them that you don’t have to think you’re good at something to enjoy and to benefit from it. If they stay open to new possibilities they may be surprised by what they discover.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can explore new ways to exercise together at home.
Additional Instructor Resources
Encouraging Your Child to Exercise video