Childhood obesity is at an all time high.2 Being active with your children is a great way to spend quality time together and teach the importance of physical activity.

Research supports that 60 minutes or more of daily combined physical activity in children will help in neuromuscular development, healthy body weight, and a healthy cardiovascular and muscular system.1,3,4

So how can you make exercise more interesting than an Xbox or cartoon?


Try these 8 creative exercises for kids and parents

Ages 6 and under

Alphabet Yoga (cardio and strength training)

Instead of traditional yoga poses, make a pose with each letter of the alphabet. This is a great way to learn the alphabet and for kids to develop stability and strength.

Kid pull overs (strength training)

This is more for parents. I do these as I’m lying on the ground and my kids are standing at my feet, facing me. I’ll pull my knees up into my chest and my kids will lie on top of my shins. As I pick them up higher I engage my core and straighten my legs (as you would touch your toes on a leg lift) as I hold on to their waist and hips and flip them to their feet facing away from me.

Do this once, and you will hear “again, again” for the next hour.

Making pizzas (strength training)

If you don’t have the supplies in your kitchen to make pizza, using play-doe is quite ok too. Young children are still developing fine motor skills, mixing the dough will help them with grip strength (from squishing it), arm strength (pushing it), and chest and shoulders (kneading it).

If you’ve ever turned dough for a long time, it can get pretty tough. This is a fun, creative exercise for kids and parents to enjoy.

Alphabet jacks (cardio, plyometrics)

This is a variation of a jumping jack/jump squat. You start off in squat position and have them jump as high as they can while pushing their hands straight up in the air as opposed to the sides like a jumping jack.

Instead of counting with numbers, count by using the alphabet. It’s a creative exercise for kids to learn letters.

Ages 7 and up

8 creative exercises for kids and parents2

The American College of Sports medicine recommends strength training with kids ages 7 and up.4 It helps to facilitate neuromuscular adaption, decrease injury, increase confidence, etc.4

Obviously, you’re not going to have kids lifting like Olympic athletes, but there are plenty of creative exercises kids can do with their parents. That being said, you very much need to avoid barbell squats as it puts too much pressure on their young spines.

Tag (cardio)

A walk or jog followed by a sprint without much time to rest, is an excellent form of anaerobic or interval training. With the constant movement and quick changes of direction, it can get you breathing heavy in no time.

Besides being a great way to break plateaus, interval training has been demonstrated  in some studies to raise Resting Metabolic Rate.5

Spiderman crawl (strength training)

The nice thing with this exercise is that it can be performed indoors or out.

It requires some imagination and creativity in which children are not lacking. Start in push up position. As you start to crawl up the pretend wall, begin with moving your arm and opposite leg forward (staying on your toes) and switch until you have made it the whole distance.

This is going to send an incredible burn throughout your muscles.

Pirate pulls (strength training)

A variation of the lat pull down to help kids develop grip and back strength.  This does require some equipment. A pulley, rope, and weight are needed for this exercise, or worst case scenario, fling the rope over a sturdy tree branch.

The goal is to have a long enough rope where the child has to pull the rope hand over hand until the weight reaches the top of the pulley, similar to raising the mast on a ship.

Superhero obstacle course (cardio/strength training)

Children like to pretend that they are super heroes, this set of exercises help them feel like one. You will find that this works really well at a playground. We set up ours by having a toy or friend that they need to “rescue” at the end of the course. For added exercise, they run to each station.

  • Station 1- 10 pushups
  • Station 2- Set of 5 small hurdles to jump over
  • Station 3- Army crawl 20 feet
  • Station 4- Climb a slide for the rescue

In conclusion

All organizations focused on health and fitness recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. 1,2,3,4 Keep in mind that 60 minutes is the recommended minimum.

Children can go all day but do make sure that they are well hydrated and have sufficient (but not excessive) food intake and rest.

In addition to physiological benefits, daily exercise has also been shown to decrease anxiety and increase attentiveness, leading to better academic performance.1,3

You do have to take into account kids who have medical issues or disabilities, as there are modifications to all of the exercises. This program focuses on cardio, strength, fine and large motor skills.

There are a lot of creative exercises for kids and parents, but I have found that they are much more willing to exercise if it’s a game.

In doing this, you are teaching your children how enjoyable exercise can be, and you get to spend time with them.


  1. World Health Organization – Physical activity and young people
  2. The Centers for Disease Control- Childhood Obesity.
  3. The Centers for Disease Control- Physical Activity Facts.
  4.  Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D., FACSM. Youth Strength Training: Facts and Fallacies. American College of Sports Medicine Fit Society Page. Winter 2009-2010
  5. Kyle J. Sevits. Edward L. Melanson, et al. Total daily energy expenditure is increased following a single bout of sprint interval training. Physiological Reports, 1 (5), 2013, e00131, doi:10.1002/phy2.13

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