Fun indoor exercises for school-aged kids (5-12 years old)

Just because you're stuck indoors doesn't mean the kids can't get out their wiggles and bump their heartbeats up a notch.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity for kids reduces risk of depression, improves aerobic fitness, muscular fitness and bone health, promotes favorable body composition and improves attention and some measures of academic performance (with school physical activity programs). That's a lot of awesome stuff. What better reason to discover some cool indoor workout ideas. 

Keep the kiddos entertained and healthy — even when you have to be inside — with these tips and fun indoor exercises for kids.

Know the physical activity guidelines for school-aged kids

SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, shares the following physical activity guidelines for 5- to 12-year-olds:

  • Guideline 1: "Children should accumulate at least 60 minutes, and up to several hours, of age-appropriate physical activity on all, or most days of the week. This daily accumulation should include moderate and vigorous physical activity with the majority of the time being spent in activity that is intermittent in nature."
  • Guideline 2: "Children should participate in several bouts of physical activity lasting 15 minutes or more each day."
  • Guideline 3: "Children should participate each day in a variety of age-appropriate physical activities designed to achieve optimal health, wellness, fitness, and performance benefits."
  • Guideline 4: "Extended periods (periods of two hours or more) of inactivity are discouraged for children, especially during the daytime hours."

Get in a mix of exercise types

The CDC recommends that children and adolescents include three types of physical activity each week, including:

1. Aerobic activities. Try jump rope, dancing, martial arts or running in place. 

2. Muscle-strengthening activities. Try pushups, squats, resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands or some forms of yoga.

3. Bone-strengthening activities. Try hopping, skipping or jumping games or exercises.

Try these fun indoor exercises for 5- to 12-year-olds

In addition to outdoor sports like soccer and basketball, experts recommend a variety of indoor exercises for kids in this age group. "They can also do basic calisthenics, such as pushups, curlups, running in place, mountain climbers and burpees," says Len Saunders, best-selling author, motivational speaker and exercise physiologist.

You can also play a structured game like "Olympic Hot Spot Challenge." Clear out some space and create "hot spot" stations with different activities for fun and variety. The idea is to get the children moving from one station to the next every 30-45 seconds. Here are some station ideas:

  • Pushups (against the wall, on their knees or full pushups).
  • Situps.
  • Jump rope.
  • Step-ups (either with a "step" or up and down the stairs).
  • Circle jumps (small rings or hula hoops or tape marks).
  • Jumping jacks.
  • Squats.
  • Balance on one leg.
  • Ball toss (with a partner).

To make it more challenging, you can:

  • Increase time at each hot spot: so 30, 45, 60 seconds.
  • Increase number of times you do the complete hot spot circuit, so 2, 3, 4 or 5 times.
  • Mixup the hot spots or doing them in a different order.
  • Creating new hot spot activities of your own.
  • Adding new hot spot props like soup can weights.
Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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