August 17, 2022

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8 Fitness Games and Fun Physical Activities for Kids

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As parents and schools grapple with whether to keep kids at home amid the surge of the COVID-19 omicron variant, a top concern for many is how this will affect other aspects of kids’ health. A new study shows that early in the pandemic, many tweens and teens stopped doing much physical activity, and when they did, their mental health suffered too. That’s why, in the depths of another COVID winter, this is a good time to look into new ways to get those kids moving, and make sure they have fun while doing so. 

Between the ages of 6 and 17, children should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And though it’s easy enough to keep little kids active, with their naturally squirming, wiggling ways, older kids and teenagers are another story. While many have often relied on physical education programs and organized sports to motivate their kids, as parents and caregivers, you can do your part, too. First, you can exercise alongside them, modeling healthy behavior. But when you’re busy, and/or your kids really do not want to be seen in public with you, let alone go on a family run, there are other ways. If you have an avid gamer on your hands, you may even be able to convince them that they love to exercise.

Even before the pandemic, tech companies and game designers were thinking about how to gamify exercise for kids and adults with fitness trackers, virtual reality, and entertaining apps. Below are a few of the best and most entertaining ways to make tweens and teens enjoy getting physical — and they may not even have to look away from the screen to do so.

When you can’t make it to a soccer field and don’t have access to your own cavernous indoor gym, you can still practice dribbling and aiming (though not those hard, across-the-field kicks) with these disks that hover above the floor. The foam padding makes them OK to use around furniture and bare feet. The LED lighting gives this the feel of a video game token in real life. 

Buy It! Let Loose Moose Hover Ball LED Light Soccer Balls (Set of 2); $29.99; amazon.com

This longtime favorite of competitive family members and aspiring dancers alike is guaranteed to work up a sweat and eventually have everyone rolling on the floor in laughter. Follow the moves set to the latest hits and hit your mark to gain points. It’s easy to play with a Nintendo Switch Joy Con, but if you don’t have one in your home, it’s also available as an app to use with PCs, AppleTV, and other streaming devices paired with your phone.

Buy It! Just Dance 2022 Nintendo Switch Digital Code; $49.99; amazon.com

Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3 Kids’ Smartwatch

If your child is in the 4-to-9 age range and needs a bit of motivation to get off the couch, this fitness tracking watch could inspire them. In addition to measuring steps the way grown-up trackers do, the Vivofit Jr. 3 encourages kids to complete their daily 60 minutes of activity in order to unlock games, quizzes, and other rewards. Parents can monitor their kids’ activity from an app on their phone, and the whole family can participate in fitness challenges together. Friends or siblings with Garmin watches can also connect (with your permission) to each other.

This smartwatch is relatively inexpensive for all the features it offers, making it a good option for teenagers looking to be more active. The Venu Sq can monitor heartbeat, sleep, stress, blood oxygen levels, hydration, and breathing. It is preloaded with workouts, a running coach, mindful breathing exercises, and sports-tracking apps. Teens will also love that it connects directly to Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer so they can exercise to their favorite music without needing a phone nearby. 

Buy It! Garmin Venu Sq Music Edition, $199.99 (orig. $249.99); garmin.com 

Rather than tear your kid away from their Nintendo Switch role-playing games, you can introduce exercise into their gaming habit with Ring Fit Adventure. Players attach one Joy-Con to the electronic ring and another to a strap that goes around one thigh, then they move around in different ways (jogging in place, squatting, squeezing the ring against their abs, and more) to progress their character through a beautifully designed world where they have to battle a very muscular dragon. There is also a more fitness-focused Quick Play mode for workouts outside of the adventure. 

Buy It! Ring Fit Adventure, $51.65-$69.99; amazon.com

If your older kid is interested in trying out yoga, strength-training, barre, and/or HIIT classes, a membership to a fitness on-demand app like Alo Moves is an easy, cost-effective (not to mention pandemic-safe) way to make it happen. The subscription unlocks access to thousands of classes with varying lengths and levels, all shot in beautiful studio locations. What’s more, if you want to join in on the workouts too, it will come out to quite a bargain compared to in-person classes.

Buy It! Alo Moves Membership, $20 a month or $99 a year; alomoves.com 

While this is not the most budget-friendly option, it is possibly the furthest you can get from a boring gym class. With a VR headset like the Oculus Quest 2, you or your kid can escape your surroundings, enter entirely new worlds, and use your body in new ways. With popular game Beat Saber, for example, a player moves through a sci-fi landscape slashing with a lightsaber at floating boxes while moving to the beat of popular songs. According to the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise (a real thing), playing the game is the equivalent of playing tennis and burns about six to eight calories a minute. 

On the other end of the tech spectrum, here is a screen-free, inexpensive way for children and adults to gamify exercise at home: jumping rope. If you haven’t tried this since your own childhood, you may not remember just how quickly it brings up your heart rate while testing your coordination. This speed rope can be adjusted to suit a variety of heights, and its ball bearings make it turn smoothly and quickly. Have your kid try it out for a few minutes a day and challenge them to see if they can increase their endurance, bit by bit, before learning new skills and tricks.

Buy It! Degol Skipping Rope with Ball Bearings, $8.54 with coupon (orig. $8.99); amazon.com