Your complete guide to keeping both you – and your kids – fit and healthy while home-schooling

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  • It's not easy juggling school, lockdown, full-time parenting and a job

    More than 100k people tuned in to the third lockdown’s first PE with Joe last week – that’s a lot

    If you haven’t heard of PE with Joe (where have you been?), the premise is simple: the personal trainer and father-of-two has streamed live workouts for both parents and kids almost every day of lockdown. His aim was to encourage kids to keep fit, but he’s also donated all profits made through his YouTube channel to the NHS, too.

    He’s not the only famous figure doing his bit: just this week, Marcus Rashford is hosting PE lessons on the BBC, making sure thousands of kids up and down the UK are staying active.

    It’s brilliant to see certain stars doing their bit, and yet, understandably, many parents are still feeling frustrated. Do you feel like you’re not able to exercise as much as they’d like? Or does it seem impossible to get your kids excited to move at home?

    Sit tight for tips from personal trainers on how you and your kids can stay active while juggling homeschooling, lockdown, full-time parenting and a job. And remember: you’re doing great. 

    How to keep your kids fit while home-schooling (besides PE with Joe)

    You all know that exercise is a great way to keep your family healthy, but studies have also found ensuring kids exercise daily can is essential for both their concentration and learning abilities.

    Jenna Rigby, mindset and body coach at GlamFit studios and mother of five, thinks all parents have a responsibility to role-model healthy living. Although, she does acknowledge that this is particularly hard right now, while juggling more than you’ve ever had to juggle before. “It goes without saying that parents in the UK are under immense pressure to multi-task right now, not to mention with many struggling to cope financially,” she shares.

    Personal trainer, coach and mother of two Polly Hale of The Fit Mum Formula agrees, adding that, while it’s great that games such as Fortnight and Roblox offer the kids ways they can ‘play’ with their friends online, these screen-based games aren’t getting them as active as school playtime would.

    Jenna’s advice? Try not to think of exercise as another problem to add to your ‘things to do’ list, but instead look at how creating a new routine may benefit you and your family in the long term. “Another parent put it perfectly to me the other day when they said, ‘we are not all in the same boat but we are in the same storm.’ So try and create a plan that works individually for you and your kids,” she explains.

    How much exercise should my child be doing?

    According to Bupa UK doctor Samantha Wild, your child’s recommended activity levels are based on their age. “If your little one is a toddler, they should aim for three hours of active play daily. If they’re older than five, an hour of physical activity is recommended, each day,” she shares.

    Not forgetting adults, who she recommends exercise for around two and a half hours a week. “That’s moderate to intense exercise, spread out across the week, for example, 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, where you raise your heart rate,” she explains. Stuck for ideas? Check out our round-up of the best Joe Wicks YouTube workouts and no kit home workouts.

    PE with Joe: other ideas for keeping your kids fit and active while home-schooling

    14 tips for keeping your kids active at home

    Take your child’s lead

    Remember, staying active doesn’t have to be in the form of a class, shares Samantha. “Think about what exercise your child enjoys doing and see if there are any ways you can do it together. For example, they may like walking the dog, playing football in the garden or park or trampolining,” she shares.

    “Just like adults, kids are more likely to want to get involved with exercise if it’s something that’s fun and makes them feel excited,” she goes on to explain. Plus, if you enjoy the activity together that means you’re spending quality time with one another, which is a win-win.

    Make it routine

    It sounds simple, but if you make concrete and specific plans for you and your family, you’re much more likely to stick to them, the GP reckons. “Creating structure in your family’s day is a great way to start – try to find a time in the day where you’re all regularly free and build in an exercise session,” she advises.

    Top tip: why not try and make household chores fun by turning your jobs into a race between you and your children? Or perhaps you could instead put some music on and incorporate some song and dance into the tasks?

    Whether you’re tidying away toys or washing the car, it all adds up to contribute towards your weekly exercise target.

    Remember, you’re only human

    Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if things don’t go to plan, she adds. “Whether home-schooling didn’t go as you’d hoped, or you didn’t get the chance to exercise together one day, it’s ok – just do your best.”

    You might find that there are days when your child’s focus is elsewhere, whether it’s on the TV, a video game or toy. This is OK – we all have days when we don’t feel like exercising and need to take some ‘me time’, so take that into consideration and try to keep the other days of the week on track, where you can.

    Get dancing

    Jenna’s favourite way of getting moving with her kids? A morning dance party. “We start the morning with some upbeat music to get everyone up and dancing after breakfast. The more energy, the better, as movement improves brain functionality and levels of concentration. This also works a treat after lunch to remove that lethargic feeling,” she shares.

    Try some ball games

    Not a fan of dancing? Why not play some fun ball games, instead. “If you have a garden, take your kids outside and teach them some ball games to play,” the PT advises. You could even get them to compete against each other or beat their own previous score, if you’re keen to make the exercise fun.

    Minimise screen time

    This one’s obvious, but is really important for keeping your little ones mentally fit and well. While they’ll all have to be on their tablets and laptops for certain lessons and activities, making sure you’re not just sitting them on a laptop all day – where possible – is ideal. “It can contribute to low concentration, children feeling lethargic and agitated,” explains Jenna.

    Set tasks

    A fun way to make your walks more exciting? Set your kids tasks like collecting leaves to make crafts, counting various items as they walk, or talking you through the seasons, weather, etc, recommends Jenna.”This not only contributes to their learning, but will keep them entertained while exercising,” she shares.

    PE with Joe: getting your kids moving from home

    Play games

    A bit like ball games, setting fun tasks and challenges throughout the day could both keep exercise regular and also make it enjoyable for the whole family.

    Why not try this: at the start of each hour, each roll a dice. The number you get correlates to a workout move that must be done. One could mean 10 jumping jacks, two, 20 push-ups, and so on. “You could even have a scorecard and introduce races, obstacle courses and challenges,” the personal trainer shares.

    Just walk

    The best way to support your mental health and wellbeing right now? A daily dose of fresh air, according to Jenna. “Just walking outside for twenty minutes releases the happy hormone serotonin into the bloodstream, improving both your energy levels and sleep quality.”

    Current guidelines advise you keep your walks, or exercise in general, within your local area. “If you’re apprehensive about the risk of COVID, take extra care by wearing your mask and avoid walkers’ hot spots,” she advises.

    Discover your kid’s favourites

    Sounds obvious, but Polly points out that your kids may not be enthusiastic to move more as you’re not enticing them with their favourite ways to get active. “Why not sit down with your kids and ask them what they’d enjoy doing? They’re much more likely to do it if they’ve come up with the solutions themselves,” she shares.

    Break it up

    Simple but effective: try breaking down the half an hour into at least three sessions, so they’re just 10 minutes long, Polly advises. That way, you’ll likely be able to hold their attention throughout.

    Chat to other parents

    Remember this: you are not alone. By chatting to fellow parents going through a similar struggle right now, you’ll not only make yourself feel better, you can also pick their brains about which TV shows, YouTube videos, or online sports coaches their kids are enjoying. Smart.

    Join in

    Struggling to find time for your own exercise,? Join in with the kids, advises Polly. “It makes it more fun for them, plus you get the benefits of having a break from working, teaching, and chores,” she explains.

    Give the task to someone else

    Simple – that’s where people like Joe Wicks and Marcus Rashford come in. It doesn’t stop there – there are so many resources on YouTube, Google and more to make your kids actually look forward to their workouts. “Some children’s sports teachers have even moved classes online too so it’s worth checking out what’s available,” shares Polly. “Mine have done dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading online – it’s a lovely way to see other kids too,” she concludes.

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