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When it comes to health, it isn’t always easy for kids and families to navigate the facts. Health’s Up is a podcast that explores health choices through child voices. In a new series all about stress, join our host, pediatric nurse practitioner Kristi Westphaln, and middle schoolers at Mary Bethune School in Cleveland as we explore the science behind stress, easy ways to cope, and how to build a community of support even in these virtual times. Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Spotify | Feed

Getting Moving | Health's Up

Students in Mrs. Simpson's class at Marion-Sterling Elementary in Cleveland practice doing bridges during a lesson on physical activity. [Anna Huntsman / ideastream]
Two students in Mrs. Simpson's class at Marion-Sterling Elementary in Cleveland practice doing bridges during a lesson on physical activity.

When it comes to health, it isn’t always easy for kids and families to navigate the facts. That’s why we created “ Health’s Up,” a new podcast that explores healthy choices through kids’ voices. The show is hosted by pediatric nurse practitioner Kristi Westphaln. Teachers - find lesson plans here!

It's difficult to get motivated to exercise. Nar'Velle, a fifth grader in Mrs. Simpson's class at Marion-Sterling Elementary in Cleveland, said he perserveres with the help of his friends.

"Sometimes I'll be tired and I don’t want to do it, but the people I’m exercising with say 'come on, come on, you can do it,' and that makes me feel confident in myself because I know I can go farther than I usually go when I exercise," he said.

Even though the weather here in Cleveland can get pretty chilly from September until April, it’s still really important to keep up a good exercise routine. While you may be tempted to run away at the thought of running, curb that urge! We’re going to learn what it means to move your body in fun and healthy ways.

There’s a magic number when it comes to exercise: 60. The American Heart Association recommends all kids get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day. That’s one hour of doing something you like that gets your heart pumping and your body moving.

There are many benefits to daily exercise: less risk for illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer, better mental health, and having a fit body with strong muscles and bones.

And being active can also help kids do better in school.

Hard to keep moving when freezing outside

The students in Mrs. Simpson’s class agree that exercise is an important part of staying healthy. But no matter whether you have a workout buddy or not, winter weather can make exercising a little harder, said one fifth grader, Rayonni.

"In the wintertime, I don’t go outside because it’s too cold," she added.

Staying active in winter can be a challenge, but there are ways to get creative. Another student, Lilleonna, turns to the internet.

"You can look up 'kid workout videos' or 'ways to lose weight,'" she said.

She downloaded an app over the summer called Work Out. She tried a boxing workout while she was in the car with her grandma.

"My grandma was looking at me like I was crazy, and then I was like 'it’s this app,'" she said. "And she was like 'oh, when we get home we can do it together in the living room.'"

Apps and YouTube videos are great ways to get active at home. They’re also very cost effective. It doesn’t cost any money to watch a YouTube video, and many fitness apps can be downloaded for free. 

And if apps aren’t your thing, maybe there’s some workout equipment at a friend or family member’s house that you could borrow, like Nar’Velle does.

"When I go to my papa's house, he have a little treadmill, so sometimes me and my brothers and sisters take turns on the treadmill," he said. "Or, when I go over to my uncle's house, he go to the gym and I lift weights over there at his gym."

Schools can also do their part to help promote physical activity for kids. One student, De’Yanni, likes the stuff they get to do during gym.

"Gym class has a lot of fun activities," she said. "Sometimes we do a pacer test where we have to run back and forth to see how long we can run. And then we have an agility test, I think to see how long we can jump and do stuff for. And sometimes, we just play exercise games like soccer, ultimate football, and dodgeball."

And it’s this kind of movement that many kids crave, including Nar’Velle.

Students in Mrs. Simpson's class at Marion-Sterling Elementary in Cleveland try yoga poses during a lesson on physical activity. [Anna Huntsman / ideastream]

"Gym, it’s my most favorite. It’s fun — it’s my favorite special. I think it’s because you get to run around and the other classrooms you just sit and pay attention," he said.

Movement is key

Dr. Roy Kim, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said for him, the key word is movement — no matter whether it’s at a gym, during gym class, or on specialized workout equipment.

He said there are lots of ways to stay physically active that may already be part of your every day routine.

“Physical activity is not always 30 minutes on a treadmill or doing a spin class or doing pickup basketball for two hours," he said. "Being physically active can also mean walking one’s dog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, helping out with household chores."

So that really broadens the notion of exercise. Even little stuff adds up.

Another topic near and dear to Dr. Kim is screens. Smart phones and devices can not only interrupt good sleep — these electronics unfortunately also have the potential to get in the way of an active lifestyle.

“We’re in an era now where more and more of our day is being spent in front of a screen. This type of activity is very sedentary and people can spend hours at it without interruption," he said. "So, really time we used to spend being outside, doing chores around the house or being on a sports team or playing has really been taken up by the electronic media."

He said he encourages families in his practice to set limits on how often they use their devices.

Physical activity challenge

The kids at Mrs. Simpson’s class at Marion-Sterling Elementary recently got a taste of how fun it can be to break free from screens and deskwork and do some heart-pumping, mind-clearing activities. They started with some yoga, taught by ideastream’s Shelli Reeves. She first showed them how to take a deep breath.

"Put your hand over your heart, your other hand over your stomach, and you want to do a big breath in and fill up your chest, so you feel like a big balloon, and then you let it all out," she said. 

She also taught them plank poses and bridges.

Yoga, or any kind of gentle stretches, can increase circulation, prevent injuries and back pain, reduce stress, and help kids be better learners. Some classes have regular yoga breaks, and it’s not a bad idea.

But for some people, exercise isn’t fun unless you’ve got competition. Mrs. Simpson’s class challenged their gym coach, Mr. Rush, to a push-up, jumping jacks, and squats challenge. 

In the end, it was a tie score, roughly, in the kids versus coach fitness competition. But everyone was really a winner because they motivated each other to exercise together and have fun while doing it.

Let’s continue to motivate each other to move more and aim for 60 minutes of daily heart-pumping, FUN activities. 

From exam room, to classroom, to newsroom — we know that healthy habits matter.  

Be in the know, stay healthy, and grow!  

Additional resources

Here are some free workout apps you can try when the weather isn't cooperating with your exercise plans.

1. Sworkit Kids - Fitness Meets Fun

2. Just Dance Now

3. GoNoodle Kids

4. Kids Fitness - Yoga

5. Geocaching

6. Pokemon Go

And, here are some easy ways to work toward your 60 minutes per day of exercise.

1. Go to the playground.

2. Take a walk.

3. Go geocaching.

4. Have a dance party in your living room.

5. When it snows, go sledding or ice skating.