When school is in session, kids typically spend a lot more time sitting than they do during the carefree months of summer — so it’s important to find ways for them to be active outside of learning hours.
“Performing the correct exercises can not only provide the general benefits of daily movement, but also help to reactivate muscles and keep away aches and pains caused by long periods of sitting,” says Kevin Klein, personal training leader at Life Time in Savage, Minn. “Importantly for students, exercise is proven to boost their mood and brain power, which can benefit children with studying, taking tests, and focusing during school.”
As a father of two kids ages 5 and 8, Klein is passionate about helping kids build healthy habits that set a foundation to carry them into adulthood and hopefully help them avoid the negative effects that can come from being sedentary or out of shape.
Encouraging regular activity and exercise when school is out is a great start. “The positive benefits of exercise, however, can be outweighed by improper nutrition and sleep,” says Klein. “Make sure your child is drinking enough water, especially if they’re exercising, as well as sleeping seven to nine hours per night and getting enough food throughout the day from as many whole foods as possible.”
To jump-start their routine and help them burn off some of that post-sitting-all-day energy, Klein designed this workout specifically for school-aged children — but it’s one that parents and caregivers can easily do, too. “This workout is meant to warm up muscles that haven’t been used while sitting,” explains Klein. “It’s structured to keep your heart rate elevated while also building strength and stability in areas that promote better posture.”
The full workout will take about 30 minutes to complete.
“This popular yoga stretch is focused on thoracic mobility, or the upper and middle parts of your back,” says Klein.
- Start with your hands and knees on the floor in a tabletop position. Keep a neutral spine and place your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Move into cow: Sink your belly and back down toward the floor while simultaneously raising your head to look forward and lifting and pushing your tailbone out. Inhale as you move.
- Transition into cat: Tuck your head and tailbone while rounding and arching your spine toward the ceiling. Exhale during this movement.
- Complete 20 repetitions. Briefly pause at the top and bottom of each movement.
Calf Stretch + Raise
“By performing this movement on a step, you work the full range of motion,” says Klein. “It helps build calf strength and supports ankle mobility.”
- Stand on the edge of a step with your weight on the balls of your feet.
- Push through your toes, lifting your ankles and body upward.
- Slowly drop your heels down below the edge of the step.
- Complete 10 to 20 repetitions. Use a railing or wall for support, if needed.
Dynamic Hip-Flexor Stretch
“This stretch helps to actively lengthen the psoas, a hip flexor that commonly gets too tight from sitting and can lead to aches, pains, and injuries,” says Klein.
- Assume a half-kneeling position, with your front leg bent at about a 90-degree knee angle and your back leg positioned so the front of your calf is resting on the ground.
- Squeeze your glutes.
- Without losing glute contraction or leaning your upper body forward, slowly move your hips forward to your end range of motion. Hold for two to three seconds.
- Return to the starting position.
- Complete 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.
|Shoulder Taps||30 seconds||3
|Glute Bridge Hold March||30 seconds|
“This exercise is great for shoulder and hip stability, as well as ab strength,” says Klein.
- Assume a high-plank position. Engage your abs and glutes.
- Quickly raise one hand to touch your opposite shoulder before returning it to the ground. Stabilize at the shoulder while focusing on not letting your hips move back and forth or tip to the side.
- Repeat with your opposite arm on the opposite shoulder.
- Repeat, alternating back and forth between sides.
Glute Bridge Hold March
“Sitting for a long period of time stretches your glutes, which can weaken them,” explains Klein. “We need to ‘wake up’ muscles with proper activation exercises like this one for them to be properly used and strengthened.”
- Lie on your back with your hands at your sides. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground, hip width apart and close to, but not touching, your glutes.
- Squeeze your abs and glutes.
- Maintaining contractions, lift your hips as high as you can without hyperextending your back.
- Still maintaining contractions, lift one foot off the ground and hold for one to two seconds before setting it back down.
- Release contraction before starting on the other side.
- Repeat, alternating sides.
|One-Leg Romanian Deadlift||45 seconds per side||3
|Squat Jumps||30 seconds|
One-Leg Romanian Deadlift
“This exercise is good for single-leg stability, which also helps with hip, knee, and ankle stability, as well as hamstring and glute strength,” says Klein.
- Stand on one leg, with a slight bend to your planted leg’s knee. Squeeze your abs and glutes. For the easiest option, hold onto a chair, table, or wall for support. For a slightly harder option, use only your body weight with no support. For the most difficult option, hold a weight or resistance cable.
- Hinge at your waist, keeping your back flat and spine in a neutral position. Your back leg should be straight.
- While hinging, bring your hands closer to the ground (it’s OK if you can’t touch the ground or your toes, you can work on mobility over time!).
- Squeeze your glutes and return to the starting position.
- Repeat for 45 seconds on the same leg before switching to the opposite side. Use a wall or furniture for balance support if needed.
“Adding the jump to the foundational movement of a squat is a great way to increase your heart rate and improve your explosive power,” says Klein.
- Assume an athletic stance with your feet about hip width apart.
- Squat down as low as you comfortably can, keeping both heels planted on the ground.
- In one explosive movement, jump as high as you can, driving your arms forward and up.
- Land softly, with your toes hitting the ground first, then ball, then heel.
- Immediately upon landing, squat down, and jump again.
|Around-the-World Plank||60 seconds||3
|Hand-Release Pushups||30 seconds|
“This twist on a traditional plank is great for ab strength and shoulder and hip mobility,” says Klein.
- Assume a high-plank position.
- Alternate lifting your limbs off the ground one at a time: Lift one arm straight in front of you and then set it back down; repeat with your opposite arm, and then lift one leg straight out behind you before setting it back down and repeating with your opposite leg. Each time you lift, make sure to keep your abs and glutes tight.
- Continue repeating in a circle pattern. To increase difficulty, start from an elbow-plank position.
“This exercise is helpful for increasing your pressing strength and can be as challenging as you choose to make it,” says Klein.
- Start in a pushup position with your hands just outside of shoulder width apart and your fingers facing straight ahead.
- Choose your difficulty level: For the easiest option, drop onto your knees. For the harder option, move your weight onto your toes.
- Lower your body to the ground.
- Once you reach the ground, release your hands by lifting them off the ground for one to two seconds.
- Put your hands back down on the ground and push back up to the starting position. Keep your abs and glutes tight before pushing up, and continue to hold your core tight during the movement to prevent your hips from sinking and swaying your back.
|Superhero Holds||30 seconds|
“With skaters, it’s important to challenge yourself with how far you’re jumping, but not to jump so far that you can’t stabilize landing on one leg,” advises Klein. “It’s a good exercise for leg strength and ankle, knee, and hip stability.”
- Standing on one leg, jump to the side and land on your opposite leg, letting your lifted leg move behind the grounded leg.
- Focus on stabilizing yourself on the grounded leg for a second before jumping back to the side and landing back on your starting leg.
“I love this exercise for its benefits to posterior body strength, specifically your glutes and lower- and mid-back,” says Klein.
- Lie flat on the ground in a prone position.
- Squeeze your glutes and draw your shoulder blades together.
- While squeezing, lift both your legs and arms straight up toward the ceiling. Let your head and chest rise with your arms.
- Hold for 30 seconds. If you can’t hold for the full 30 seconds, then do this exercise for repetitions instead: Hold for as long you’re able to, return to the starting position, and continue to repeat until you reach the 30-second mark.