Youth Fitness

Keeping Kids Fit and Active During COVID-19

Katrina Pilkington
Katrina Pilkington
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With the rise of transmission with COVID-19, many schools have stopped teaching in-class courses for the remainder of the school year. This means working parents and caregivers have the task of teaching kids virtually - as well as taking on the role of a homeschooler and primary caregiver for children across the globe.

Aside from academic restrictions, sports and group activities have become limited or canceled as well. Daily, those who care for children have to become creative with how they approach youth exercise. It's important to keep kids engaged with their physical fitness.

As a full-time student and mother, I know all too well how overwhelming this time can be for many of us. Although I am a personal trainer, youth exercise specialist, and fitness educator myself, the ever-present challenge of juggling the day can easily keep me on my toes. I constantly find myself brainstorming ideas to generate fun and inventive ways that adjust our daily routine.

So, if you are specialist yourself, or if you are an instructer for youth sports, you can carry these tips in your back pocket. 

Enroll in the COVID management course by NASM for extra tips on training clients during these times.

Create an exercise schedule for your kids

My first tip for being home with the kids is to create a schedule while also allowing for flexibility. Children, just like adults, like to know what to expect each day. Most kids went to school to interact with their peers and learn from their teachers. When that came to an abrupt halt, that threw a wrench into many of our plans. Setting up a daily schedule can allot time where it's most needed while also helping everyone involved to know what to expect.

Studies have shown that family routines contribute positively to social and emotional advancement in children (Bond, 2014). On the other hand, it's perfectly okay to deviate from a plan and adjust accordingly. Meltdowns, from both parents/caregivers and children alike, are to be expected every once in a while, with everyone under the same roof 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Shelter-in-place protocols can call for families to stay indoors as much as possible, with allowances for walks and exercise outside throughout the day. At a minimum, children need 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Amounts that go beyond 60 minutes can then provide beneficial health benefits beyond the base recommendation (Youth Physical Activity Guidelines, 2019).

3 Benefits of exercise for youth

The benefits of exercise for children are manifold. Here are just a few:

  1. Regular exercise for children can increase bone health.
  2. A Kids fitness routine can lower body fat reduce tendencies for chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus (particularly Type 2 diabetes). 
  3. Working out as a child can strengthen muscles and increase cardiovascular health - as most exercises should be aerobic in nature.

This means that youth are in continuous movement and not necessarily focused on fitness programming (as an adult would be.) Weight-bearing activities with bodyweight show to enhance muscular strength and stability in children.

Exercises by age group:

Here are some age-group-related skills to keep in mind for children when it comes to fitness (and wellness overall):

  1. Toddler to early elementary: foundational - balance, sports skills, agility, foods, and groups, learning with movement
  2. Elementary - sport skills, intrinsic motivation, nutrition
  3. Middle school and beyond - sport skills, intrinsic motivation, nutrition, set a solid goal (race, etc.)

3 fun fitness activities for Kids

Without getting overly complicated, the goal for exercise with kids is to keep things LIGHT and FUN. For kids to get moving, and to do so willingly, they have to be enticed with fun activities that make them smile!

In addition to that, to keep stress low for parents and caretakers, using limited equipment or what's around the house is an ideal way to make movement activities as straightforward as possible.

Activity Idea #1 – Zoofari (Ages 2-5)

Equipment needed: Construction or any paper to mark stations, a marker for writing (the kids can help if they can write)

Activity Idea #2 – Island Hopping (Ages 2-5)

Equipment needed: Construction or any paper to mark stations, a marker for writing (the kids can help if they can write)


Activity Idea #3 - Superheroes

Lastly, check this one out. Your kids - or kids you are coaching/training - will really love this!

healthy meals are a priority for kids!

The majority of us have a multitude of people under one roof at any given point in the day now. That also means that more food is being consumed from the house rather than out.

This can be a good thing! We must use this time of reset with others in the home to be mindful of what we eat, avoiding mindless eating as much as possible. Healthy meals, with snacks staggered around them, should be a priority of planning in the home as much as possible.

Between 45-65% of a child's nutrition intake should fall into the category of Carbohydrates between the time that they are a one-year-old through their adolescent and teenage years.

What does that mean? That means that the bulk of foods for our children should come in the form of healthy whole food sources. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes serve as nutrient-dense sources from nature (food intolerances should be taken into consideration on an individualized basis.)

Healthy Meal Idea: Family Taco Bowl Night!

This is a refreshingly simple way to get the family involved in meal planning as well as a way to throw in healthy meal components at the same time!


  1. 2-3 different kinds of beans (black, pinto, refried work – they’re all full of iron and healthy carbohydrates and proteins for the family)
  2. Whole Wheat tortillas
  3. Mixed greens or baby kale or spinach
  4. Low fat or plant-based sour cream
  5. Low fat or plant-based shredded cheese
  6. Salsa of preference
  7. White or brown rice – cooked
  8. Corn or Grain-free tortilla chips

How to: Cook beans or use canned beans that you can heat up and set to the side. Arrange ingredients in bowls. Ensure that the family has washed their hands and is ready to help make their dish. Each person can choose to make nachos, a taco salad, burritos, or tacos – it's a chance to get creative. In this recipe, you'll have healthy sources of whole food nutrients without a lot of preparation or use of cooking appliances!

Lead by example for successful kids fitness

No one can pour their energy out from an empty cup. Work is essential as well as the education of our children, but our health remains a top priority. Allotting time for our workouts can make or break our sanity while being home with our kids. We stay mentally strong through the challenges and can use exercise as a healthy means of time to ourselves.

The dopamine rush (also known as the free happy chemical release you get with your workout) is necessary now more than ever! I've had to learn to multi-task and sometimes do my workouts with my little one, so that she can learn from my example, and so that I tire her out at the same time.

If you are wanting to learn how to build exercise programs for children, try NASM's youth exercise specialization!


  1. Bond, A. (2014, March 12). Kids with family routines more emotionally, socially advanced. Retrieved from
  2. DeWayne, S. A., Register-Mihalik, J. K., Ondrak, K. S., & Barefield, K. undefined. (2012). National Academy of Sports Medicine: Youth Exercise Specialist.
  3. Youth Physical Activity Guidelines. (2019, May 29). Retrieved from

The Author

Katrina Pilkington

Katrina Pilkington

Katrina is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, Youth Exercise Specialist, Women’s Fitness Specialist, Nutrition Coach, AFAA Group Fitness Instructor and Wellness Workshop Presenter


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