5 Fitness Ideas for After School Programs

Keep Kids Moving In-Person and Virtually

These days, the challenges of encouraging children to incorporate exercise into their daily lives are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Different states are at various stages of reopening, with some schools and afterschool programs remaining fully online and a few offering in-person activities.

After school programs offer children a way to connect with peers and mentors and receive adequate daily exercise, as recommended by the U.S. government. To keep kids moving while the rest of their environment is shutting down, incorporate unique, playful activities into your after school program.

The Virtual Challenge

During the current pandemic situation, many schools have opted to take classes online to keep kids safe. After school programs are doing the same, and with that comes a virtual challenge. Video conferencing with one person is often tricky. Still, with an entire classroom of children, between keeping them orderly and offering an engaging activity lesson, there are bound to be some difficulties.

Choose exercises and activities that are ideal for small spaces, transfer easily back to in-person after school programs, and allow kids to express themselves. Then, once you’re back at your usual location, you can keep incorporating the same fun activities.

The Overall Challenge

Getting and keeping kids involved in physical fitness is challenging at any time, not just while programs must be offered virtually. In modern times, mass amounts of children face an imminent threat from multiple life-threatening illnesses and conditions without adequate exercise, including the following, among many more:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Other conditions including hypoglycemia, kidney disease, cataracts, and possible stroke

It’s alarming to learn that only thirteen states in the U.S. require some portion of time for recess daily. Even more worrisome, only five states require students to attend weekly physical education classes. It’s clear that children are at an increased risk of developing serious health problems without fitness, and sometimes, an after school program is all the exercise they get. That’s why it’s essential to incorporate fun, easy to follow fitness activities into your after school program and encourage children to enjoy fitness in their everyday lives.

5 Fun Fitness Ideas for After School Programs

When you offer activities in your after school program that engage children while incorporating fitness, you instill a love for exercise that lasts for years to come. Creating exciting, enjoyable fitness programming for your students makes exercising feel less like a chore or homework. Here are five great fitness ideas for your after school program:

1. Yoga

Yoga is a great fitness activity that strengthens both the body and mind. It uses breathing techniques, changing poses, core strength, and mindfulness. You can use yoga as an after school fitness activity, both in-person and online. There are various yoga styles, like Vinyasa or Bikram yoga, so you’ll always have a new pose to teach, specific to a particular type.

The Benefits:

Yoga has become increasingly popular in recent years among all age groups and abilities. It’s simple, easy to understand, and requires very little equipment. Although it is less vigorous than, say, running sprints, yoga is a fantastic fitness exercise because it improves core strength and increases mental fortitude.

2. Dancing

If you’re struggling to find a fun fitness activity that applies both virtually and physically, consider dancing as a care-free, cardiovascular fitness alternative. It’s an ideal activity for enclosed spaces, so it’s perfect for virtual after school programs.

The Benefits:

Not only is dancing an excellent way to break up the monotony of a virtual after school program, but it also gets heart rates up and releases endorphins that improve overall well-being.

3. Juggling With Activity Scarves

When you envision a juggler, you probably picture a red-nosed clown, perched atop a unicycle, flipping multiple bowling pins or other unusual objects through the air. Juggling does not need to be so complicated. In fact, learning to juggle with activity scarves is an easy skill for students to pick up.

One great feature of activity scarves is that they’re precisely that: scarves. There’s no need to worry about a child breaking anything while practicing juggling at home or during a virtual program. Juggling gets kids’ bodies and brains moving. There are numerous physical benefits to gaining juggling skills, plus, it’s just a ton of fun for everyone.

The Benefits:

Kids can use activity scarves to learn juggling and improve several critical things, including:

  • Motor skills
  • Dexterity
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Reaction time

4. Virtually Physical Activity Programs

The transition to virtual classes and after school activities is a challenge; Physical education teachers fear that the increased screentime could significantly impact their students’ health. Contrary to what many think, more time behind the screen doesn’t mean kids have to stop moving. Use a 30-day virtual physical activity program to get your students off their feet and enjoying games and exercise again. They’ll be grateful for some time to let loose and forget about today’s troubles.

The Benefits:

Using a virtual physical activity program daily instills the value of daily exercise into children. This program creates consistency in kids’ routines while they’re stuck at home. By the time they’re back at school, they’ll be ready and excited to incorporate exercise into their regular routine.

5. Workout Wheels

One unique way to keep kids engaged and entertained while still providing physical activity is using workout wheels. Use a typical spinning wheel filled with fitness activities and stretches. Let your after school program participants spin it and see what exercise they get. Some examples of exercises to include on your wheel are:

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Star jumps
  • Mountain climbers
  • Funny dances

If you’re a tech-savvy teacher, create a workout wheel for your program participants to interact with virtually, or use the one found in this 30-day virtual program.

The Benefits:

Workout wheels are a fantastic fitness idea because they are engaging both in-person and virtually. The functionality of the wheel allows for randomization, which keeps kids enticed and on their toes. This activity offers all the benefits of each aerobic exercise on the wheel in one!

Wrapping Up

It’s essential that children participate in at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. However, in some states, there isn’t even a requirement for physical education! During this pandemic, after school educators have to work particularly hard to incorporate engaging activities and exercises into their programming.

Use our list of five fun ideas for after school program activities, or contact us for other virtual resources for educators. Give your students a sense of normalcy and instill a lifelong love for physical fitness along the way.

About the Author

Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the #1 large group physical activity resource. Skillastics® makes it easy to organize, motivate, and engage students to move, learn, and love it. Skillastics® is an innovative technique of play designed around an oversize mat where up to 100 children can play at one time. There are 13 different Skillastics® Activity Kit themes, ranging from general fitness, sport skill development, character enhancement, and academic integration, including STEM and nutrition. The newest layer of Skillastics® resources includes 30-Day Virtual Physical Activity programs, including Fitness, Martial Arts, and Yoga.

Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 Physical Education and After School settings nationwide.

For more information, email info@skillastics.com or check out www.skillastics.com.

 

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