The high prevalence of obesity and inactivity among U.S. children is a significant public health problem, and the lockdown spurred by the pandemic—along with the shift to online learning—has highlighted the issue. What can fitness professionals do to address this health crisis and offer unique pathways to exercise for children? After all, today’s inactive kid is tomorrow’s unhealthy adult.

In addition to the custom virtual offerings already in a personal trainer’s arsenal, The Cooper Institute offers a free online tool for parents, teachers and fitness professionals to share with movement-hungry young people.  The FitnessGram Playground, sponsored by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the NFL Foundation, is a brightly colored, interactive and evidence-based site dedicated to improving kids’ physical fitness and mental well-being. This online tool directly addresses low levels of childhood physical activity and offers homes and schools direct, fun access to physical activity and fitness resources.

“Research shows students who participate in 60 minutes of daily physical activity boast improved cardio fitness, healthier body weight, improved attendance and higher academic scores,” said Andjelka Pavlovic, PhD, director of youth research and education for The Cooper Institute, in a press release. “During these challenging times, it is critical that our parents, teachers and students have access to the evidence-based, health-related fitness content.”

Participating children learn about the importance of health-related physical fitness and how to assess it. Once they’ve established a starting point, they set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals. Then they can move into the “address” section and participate in the physical activity videos. After 3 months of consistent participation, they can re-assess, note improvements and modify goals as needed.

Utilizing the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day as a framework, The Cooper Institute partnered with New York City-based nonprofit, Hip Hop Public Health to develop a dance-inspired fitness video series. In addition, the site offers numerous learning modules to help concerned adults share the importance of spotlighting a physically active lifestyle. The modules include protocols, assessment cadences and educational videos and documents, along with a series of “fit talks.” Specialized vignettes focus on aerobic capacity, body composition and muscle fitness. This content allows teachers, parents and fitness professionals to incorporate important health information into their broader digital programs.

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See also: To Grow Happier, Healthier Adults, Raise Fit Kids