In fact, fewer than 1 in 3 American children get enough exercise every week, according to Education Week. This lack of activity has serious implications on children’s health, including increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes. Research also shows that the lack of exercise negatively impacts children’s academic performance and social behavior.

After school programs can play an important role in helping children get 60 minutes of physical activity daily, the recommended amount by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The trick is to find ways to keep them active without making it feel like actual exercise. Consider the following unconventional fitness activities to make your students break a sweat every day:

  • Dancing: No one can pass up a good dance session! Dancing strengthens muscles, increases endurance, supports weight management and more. Play the top 10 kids dance party songs of all time or try these simple dance songs for younger children.
  • Yoga: While not as rigorous as the other activities listed, yoga is a fun activity that strengthens muscles, increases flexibility and improves balance and coordination. As a bonus, it also boosts body confidence and self-esteem. Check out these yoga resources to get started.
  • Hula Hooping: An old-time favorite, hula hooping is an exciting yet challenging way to get children moving. As they focus on spinning the hula hoop around their hips, they’re also strengthening their core, improving their coordination and increasing their flexibility and endurance.
  • Animal Walks: This exercise can be easily disguised as a fun game for your students. In an open field or gym, line students up side by side. Then, call out an animal - like a duck, crab or bunny - and challenge students to walk or hop like that animal until they reach the finish line. Check out the video below for examples.

  • Play: Don’t forget about the simple act of playing. Take students to a playground or give them access to an open field or gym. Whether it’s kicking a ball or hanging from the monkey bars, the physical activity helps to strengthen bones and muscles, control weight and improve motor skills. For activity ideas, read 10 Outdoor Games to Keep Kid Fit Over the Summer. Program leaders have the opportunity to positively impact students’ health by encouraging physical activity. With these fun, unconventional fitness activities, children will see exercise as a natural part of their lives that provides lasting benefits.