Healthy, active kids grow up to be healthy, active adults. That’s the thinking of Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation), a non-profit committed to empowering kids to develop lifelong healthy habits, including physical activity.
Traditionally, kids may sign up for soccer, little league, or another sport. But Healthier Generation knows kids don’t have to be on a sports team to be physically active.
“Find out what those kids like to do and try to appeal to those interests,” says Lisa Perry, Healthier Generation’s senior national advisor of health and physical education. “Expose them to a wide variety of activities and try to help them develop competence in these physical activities. They may find one that resonates with them.”
For example, for kids who don’t like to run or work out, create a scavenger hunt wherein they and their peers have to find certain items. “They’ll he physically active but it won’t feel like traditional physical activity,” says Perry.
Being physically active has many benefits for kids including heart health, weight management, and strong bones and muscles, as well as being a mood booster. It can also help kids relax.
“Physical activity is one of the best methods to help kids control stress,” Perry says. “It can help kids burn off some energy, it can help take away stress, and help students feel good about themselves.”
Plus, it helps kids achieve in the classroom. She says good physical heath positively impacts academics, explaining that studies showstudents who perform well on fitness tests, also tend to perform well in schoolwork.
“Students who increase their physical fitness will often see an increase in academic performance,” she says.
Statistically, kids spend less than 25 percent of their day in the classroom. That leaves a significant amount of out of school time for physical activities, including after school programs.
Healthier Generation, whose ongoing work has reached up to 28 million kids across the country, has aligned with the National After School Association Standards. The guidelines say kids activities should be age appropriate, fun, aerobic, cardio-respiratory, and bone and muscle strengthening.
Those standards include offering kids a variety of exercise options like biking, jogging, and jumping rope, as well as non-competitive physical activities like swimming, dancing, and yoga. They also suggest giving kids “free play time,” further showing children don’t have to be on sports teams to be active and develop healthy habits.