How to stay active while at home during COVID-19

Published: May 26, 2020

Physical Activity for Kids at Home:

Staying physically active during times of stress – like the current public health pandemic – may not be a family’s top priority. However, maintaining an active routine at home can go a long way in supporting our physical and mental well-being. Not only does physical activity help children learn better and lead healthier lives, it can help reduce stress.

Research by the CDC demonstrates that participating in regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity provides many health benefits. Some benefits of physical activity related to well-being can be achieved immediately, such as reduced blood pressure and feelings of anxiety, and improvements in sleep, some aspects of cognitive function, and insulin sensitivity. Other benefits—such as increased cardio respiratory fitness and muscle strength, decreases in depressive symptoms, and sustained reduction in blood pressure—typically require a few weeks or months of participation in physical activity. In addition to these physiological benefits, there is an added bonus to physical activity: brain boost. Research shows that when kids are active their focus improves. This is great news for parents, caretakers, teachers, and just about anyone who works with kids.

Parents: Take mindful breaks that can help you boost your energy at home! We know having kids at home requires time and energy. We encourage (you or parents) to follow these suggestions to take a break and recharge your batteries

  1. 10-20 minutes bursts of exercise can go a long way! Research by Kelley Gabriel, former Center Investigator and faculty at the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Science at UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, explains how regular participation in moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) is associated with numerous health benefits including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Try any of these 10-minute workouts for adults as a break from home schooling your kids.
  2. Relax outdoors. Walk the dog, go for a jog, go on a bike ride, or head to the park and let kids run around for a while as a break from your new routine during COVID-19.

See the physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents and get more ideas here.

Unfortunately, this is all easier said than done. Texas children are not exercising. A lack of physical activity has adverse lifetime consequences. In order to improve Texas children’s physical activities,  The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living’s Healthy Children, Healthy State, reports raise awareness of child health risk factors in order to develop new programs and actions, and to build on current initiatives in Texas. Using data from the Texas School Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) surveillance system, the report on Physical Activity in Texas highlights the statistics of physical inactivity across the state.


So what are busy, time- and budget-limited families to do? Well, there are actually quite a few at-home options for parents and children. One of the easiest is to follow our Healthy Living Challenge Calendar. It’s a fun and simple way to incorporate into your daily life activities that are healthy for your mind and body. You can encourage your family to make physical activity a part of their daily routines by creating a reward system.  Mark a time for each physical activity on the calendar and let your children add a sticker or checkmark on the calendar. When they have a whole week completed, reward them by letting them choose a fun activity to do over the weekend! Putting a positive spin on physical activity encourages them to keep participating!


Physical activity provides multiple benefits for children’s physical, mental and social health. Current recommendations state that children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Here are some easy ways to get physically active that people of all ages will enjoy and that you can incorporate in addition to healthy eating for the Healthy Living Challenge Calendar:

  • Turn off the television and go on a walk after dinner? 
  • Turn the music on and have a dance party
  • Play tag or hide-and-seek indoors or out?? 
  • Be an active role model! Model some yoga poses, or teach your kids your favorite sport. When kids see you enjoying physical activity, they may want to try it, too.
  • Encourage your children to participate in active outdoor chores such as raking leaves, pulling weeds, watering plants, sweeping the walks or cleaning the garage.
  • Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is not ready for weightlifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all appro­priate activities.
  • Try the CATCH Health at Home before dinner or during the commercials of your favorite television program 

Get kids excited about moving and share photos of your family being active using the hashtag #HealthyLivingChallenge and tag the Michael & Susan Dell Healthy Living Center social media profiles. Those who share images or videos staying active at home will be featured on our social media platforms.

Instagram: @msdcenter

Twitter: @msdcenter