Kids: Keep Moving, but Keep Your Distance!


By Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, FACSM, FAHA, FTOS | Professor and Marie Edana Corcoran Endowed Chair in Pediatric Obesity and Diabetes, Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Sciences

Spring in Louisiana is one of the most enjoyable times of the year and should also be one of the most active. However, this year, getting in those extra steps is tougher than ever.

Recently released data from FitBit has shown that during the week of March 22, 2020, the United States saw a 12% decline in step counts compared to the same week last year. Many have attributed this difference to the social distancing recommendations in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Children and youth usually accumulate significant physical activity walking or riding their bikes to school and other places, through organized sports in their school or community, during physical education classes, and from normal active play. This is extremely important, as higher levels of physical activity are associated with many health benefits in children and youth, including:

• increased bone health
• decreased risk of weight gain and obesity
• increased fitness levels
• decreased cardiovascular disease risk factors
• improved cognitive function
• decreased symptoms of depression

Although it is important to follow all social distancing recommendations related to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is important to keep our kids moving and limit screen time and other sedentary behaviors. We cannot slip into a chronic state of inactivity, the health implications of which may be long-lasting!

Key Guidelines for Physical Activity for Children and Youth


• Preschool-aged children (ages 3 through 5 years) should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.

• Children and adolescents (ages 6 through 17 years) should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.

Aerobic: Most of the 60 minutes or more per day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity on at least 3 days a week.

Muscle-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days a week.

Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days a week.

For examples, see the links in Additional Resources below.

Some special considerations are required during this time:

• Remember—keep your distance. While enjoying physical activity, stay at least six feet from other people.
• Avoid touching your face or touching any unnecessary surfaces while being active.
• Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly when you return home.
• Children and youth should not be congregating in groups if they are under advisement to stay at home or to shelter in place—this is the reason that schools have been closed!

Read more Pennington Biomedical insights on the COVID-19 pandemic