New York Times Feature: Getting Kids to Move More

Exercise scientists and coaches offer tips on getting young people to be more active.


When we asked readers recently what they wanted to know about the coronavirus and exercise, many parents responded with variations of the question — or in some instances, the cri de coeur — of how do I get my kids to move more and stop sitting all day in front of laptops, phones and televisions?

It’s a legitimate concern. “A growing body of evidence shows excessive sitting to be linked with various health risks, low self-esteem and decreased academic achievement in school-aged children and youth,” says Taija Juutinen Finni, a professor of health sciences at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland who studies inactivity in young people.

But how do we encourage young people to be more active, without making activity one more draining chore? Exercise scientists and coaches, some of them also parents, had some suggestions.

Parents’ primary goal should be to find a way — any way — to encourage homebound offspring to get up and move, at least a little, says Stuart Phillips, the director of the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Health Research at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “Getting some kind of physical activity every day greatly improves their mood, sleep and, of course, their health.”

The current federal physical activity guidelines recommend that children and teenagers exercise for at least an hour a day, while preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 should be up and whizzing about for three hours or more. But, for now, young people “should just try to get out of breath once in a while,” Dr. Juutinen Finni says.

To that end, the researchers recommend that, in technical parlance, you let the wild rumpus start. “Hopping, skipping, ball toss, bear crawls and crab walks can be fun ways to engage younger kids,” says Samantha Stephens, a pediatric exercise physiologist and research fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Avoid over-exuberant bouncing, of course, in deference to safety and any downstairs neighbors.

Or “set up a disco” in the living room, Dr. Juutinen Finni suggests, stringing holiday lights and creating a cross-generation family playlist. “Dancing together is fun,” she says and lifts pulses and spirits.

You also could meld academics and aerobics, helping both seem less rote. “In math, students could do calculations, and then get to perform as many jumps as the last answer,” Dr. Juutinen Finni says. Or, if they are studying shapes and geometry, suggest they step off the dimensions of your rooms and calculate just how rhomboid some of those spaces are.

Whenever possible, too, get outside, wearing masks and gloves as required, and go analog. “Use chalk to create a hopscotch course” on a sidewalk, Dr. Stephens says. “Blow bubbles and have your kids catch them. Play tag.” Not surprisingly, young people move more when outdoors. In a 2019 study of almost 6,500 children in 12 nations, any hour spent outside resulted in more physical activity than comparable time indoors.

Young people should also aim to be strong, and some of them, especially teenagers, may be more receptive to weight training than family dancing. “If your kids don’t want to run, bike or walk but would lift a weight or a sack of flour, do a push-up, squat, jump, skip, then great!” Dr. Phillips says.

“Resistive work is safe for kids,” he adds, “and likely helps to prevent injuries in sports, has beneficial metabolic effects, and a huge mental health benefit.”

It also can be done with little or no equipment. “Body weight training is a great form of resistance exercise,” Dr. Phillips says.

For a brief, child-friendly body weight workout, try several push-ups, followed by some “mountain climbers” — with the young people on all fours, kicking first one leg and then the other behind them, as if scaling a steep slope — and 30 seconds or so of “Superman,” meaning children lie on their stomachs on the floor and lift and hold their arms and legs, as if whooshing through the air.

Young people could Zoom these sessions with friends or allow their parents to join in, for competition and comic relief.

But perhaps the most important message for parents is “don’t try to be the P.E. teacher,” says Ali McManus, a professor of health and exercise at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus, whose research focuses on children. “If we make exercise too prescriptive, it will be yet another thing to make many parents feel they are failing” and children and teenagers resentful.

Instead, reframe physical activity as a respite from the demands and anxieties of the pandemic, she says. “Parents need recess, too.” So, for your sake and theirs, get up when you can and hop or shimmy with your youngsters. Or suggest your teens, spouse and you download the adventure app “Zombies, Run!,” and add bloodcurdling frisson to an all-family after-school jog.

And know that having the time, space and opportunity to exercise during the shelter-at-home edicts are privileges not available to everyone, every day. If, this afternoon, you cannot break away from Zoom conferences for a dance-off, relax, Dr. Juutinen Finni says, and aim for the more-modest goal of getting your offspring up off the couch every hour. Standing up, by itself, “provides a healthy stimulus to the leg muscles in children,” she says, and lifts some of the weight from busy parents’ shoulders.

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Published May 6, 2020Updated May 7, 2020

Article on The New York Times Here

Reebok to Provide $100,000 to 10 Lucky BOKS Programs ($10,000 Each!)

Reebok & BOKS are Getting Kids Active throughout the Nation by Increasing Movement Opportunities 

 (BOSTON, MA) January 25, 2021 Today Reebok and BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success), an initiative of the Reebok Foundation, announced that they will provide 10 underserved schools and nonprofit youth organizations across the nation who are utilizing BOKS resources to help get kids moving with a $10,000 award. BOKS is a physical activity program designed to get kids active and establish a lifelong commitment to health and fitness.  

 During these times of extreme isolation, increased sedentary behavior and screen obsessed youth, it is extremely important to provide inspiration and access to physical activity and play,” said Kathleen Tullie, Senior Director of Social Purpose at Reebok.The award dollars are intended to support BOKS programming and resources, as well as other health and wellness initiatives, that increase opportunities for kids to move.   

 In Fall 2020, in honor of the program’s 10 Year Anniversary, BOKS announced the Defenders of Physical Activity campaign, which would award $10,000 to one exemplary BOKS program that not only changes the wellbeing of kids in their community but sets an example for other BOKS programs. Exercise is really one of the best preventative measures in the fight against COVID-19 and overall mental and physical health. After an incredible influx of applications, and with so many strong programs to choose from, Reebok stepped in with the additional funding to recognize 10 BOKS programs, making the anniversary celebration even greater – 10 Years of BOKS and $10,000 to 10 amazing BOKS programs.

 As the funds are unrestricted, the goal is to provide these schools and non-profit youth organizations the autonomy to use these dollars as needed to help keep the kids they serve active and healthy. The recipients of the $10,000 awards are as follows:  

  • Randle Highlands, Washington DC 
  • St. Dominic School, Los Angeles, CA 
  • Redland Christian Academy, Homestead, FL 
  • Gateway Region YMCA, St. Louis, MO 
  • P.S. 228Q The Ivan Lafayette Early Childhood School of the Arts, NYC 
  • Baldwin Early Learning, Boston, MA 
  • Whitsett Elementary School, S. Nashville, TN 
  • SouthSide Elementary, Providence RI 
  • Boston Green Academy Horrace Mann Charter, Brighton MA 
  • P.S. 384 Q, Long Island, NY 

  We are thrilled and honored to be a recipient of the Defenders Of Physical Activity grant. These funds will allow the Y to impact change in this time of uncertainty. Having access to the BOKS program allows us to do more and provide needed services in our communities. We are excited to take BOKS to the next level and our hope is to provide youth with tools and resources to live a healthy lifestyle!”  Said Sarah Rhodebeck, Executive Director of Association Child Care Services, Gateway Region YMCA.

 “Our school serves an urban, low-income, primarily immigrant community with limited access to professional sports organizations.” Said Steven Orozco, Physical Educator and BOKS Leader, New York City Public School 228Q, The Ivan Lafayette Early Childhood School of the Arts.  “All of our students will benefit from newly acquired gymnastics (ninja-course!) equipment acquired through our partnership with BOKS for years to come! The goal is to get kids excited about becoming more confident and adept at athletics, physical activity and making healthy choices; creating a joy of movement and instilling a lifetime of paring fun with movement.” 

 In 2020, BOKS also awarded an additional $200,000 to more than 100 underserved schools and nonprofit youth organizations across the US through its grant program.  In addition to Reebok, BOKS grant funding partners include The Boston Foundation, CVS Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, Toyota, and CrossFit 

 Media Contacts 

Caeli Sullivan, BOKS  

Dan Sarro, Reebok  


About Reebok
Reebok International Ltd., headquartered in Boston, MA, USA, is a leading worldwide designer, marketer and distributor of fitness and lifestyle footwear, apparel and equipment. An American-inspired global brand, Reebok is a pioneer in the sporting goods industry with a rich and storied fitness heritage. Reebok develops products, technologies and programming that enable movement so people can fulfill their potential. Reebok connects with the fitness consumer wherever they are and however they choose to stay fit – whether it’s functional training, running, combat training, walking, dance, yoga or aerobics. Reebok Classics leverages the brand’s fitness heritage and represents the roots of the brand in the sports lifestyle market. 

 For more information, visit Reebok, or, for the latest news at 

 Discover Reebok at the following locations:;; and 

 About BOKS 

In today’s screen obsessed culture, kids are the least active generation in history. This sedentary lifestyle is negatively impacting both their physical, mental and social health. BOKS is a physical activity program designed to reverse this public health crisis by getting kids active and establishing a lifelong commitment to health and fitness. Built on the science and research documented in the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, BOKS provides free physical activity curriculum, training and support to communities looking to establish and maintain impactful fitness and nutrition programs serving the whole child. Having grown from a single elementary school to a global initiative, BOKS is scalable, and its impact is supported by scientific research. BOKS envisions a world in which movement is a foundational part of every child’s day.  For more information about BOKS visit