Q&A with Healthy Kids Challenge- Part 3


The U.S. Surgeon General and First Lady are challenging our nation to eat healthy and get more physical activity. With all of this talk about physical activity, our partner organization Healthy Kids Challenge had a few questions for us, and we thought we’d post the answers here for our SPARK family as well.

(This is part three in a three part series)

Q: What are some safety guidelines when an obese or poorly fit child is participating in PE class?

A: Before starting on any exercise program obese and poorly fit children should first be seen by a doctor. They can inform you of any limitations that may be required. Once they have the OK, students should begin in the light to moderate intensity levels, moving to moderate to vigorous levels as they gain fitness. Walking, for many obese children, is quite enough to increase their heart rate into their target heart rate zone. It is not only unnecessary, but unsafe, to require them to run any distance.

It is important for all children to participate at a level that is right for them. Start by teaching students how to take their heart rates to gauge intensity. Use their resting heart rate and age to compute their target heart rate zone between 60 and 70% of max. Train them to take their heart rate during activity to keep them from overexerting themselves. This gives them the tools they need to monitor their activity level and stay in a safe but beneficial zone.

Aside from walking, other activities they may enjoy include roller-blading, bike riding, dancing, swimming, and many more. It all depends on the student. It is important that all students, not just the obese, find activities they enjoy so they are more likely to continue them on their own. Being positive and supportive to the obese and reluctant exercisers is key to helping them get and stay motivated to be physically active.

Q: What are some fun activities that can be done for core strengthening in PE class?

A: Again, it’s important to note that not all students in your class will start (or end) at the same fitness level. For some of your students, completing a single curl-up seems a Herculean task where others may be able to do 75 full sit-ups with only minor discomfort. Be sure to provide several levels of difficulty for any activity you ask students to do. They can choose the level that is right for them. To promote greater improvements, encourage students to choose the level that is just beyond their comfort zone in order to overload their core.

The key here is to take your students’ minds off any discomfort by distracting them with bells and whistles. Below are a few activities to strengthen abdominals, obliques, and back muscles all wrapped up in a bundle of fun!

Sit-up Ball Exchange

Students are in pairs (of similar core fitness level) with 1 tossable. Partners in sit-up position facing each other, feet just touching; 1 partner holding the tossable. Both start in down position. Both come up at the same time and the tossable is tossed to the other partner. Both go down. Repeat.

Challenge: How many catches can you and your partner make in 1 minute?

Push-up Hockey

Students are in pairs (of similar core fitness level) with a hockey puck (or small tossable). Partners in push-up position (or modified) facing each other, hands 3’ from partner’s hands; 1 partner with the puck. Partner with puck tries to shoot puck between partner’s hands to score a goal. Defending partner may use 1 hand to block the puck. Alternate roles as shooter and defender.

Sit-up Hand-Off

Students are in groups of 5-8 (of mixed core fitness level) sitting in file lines, each in sit-up position (down position) with feet just beyond the head of the student in front of them. Lines radiate out from a hoop placed in the center. Place 5 tossables per group in the hoop. On signal, student closest to the hoop completes a sit-up and grabs a tossable from the hoop, then moves to the down position to hand it off to the next in line. Next in line must sit up to receive the tossable, then move to the down position to hand it off to the next in line. The tossable continues down the line until it reaches the last student who places it behind them when they are in the down position. First in line repeats the cycle directly after they have handed off the first tossable so there is very little rest before the next tossable needs to be handed back. Continue until all tossables are out of the hoop and at the end of the line, then reverse the hand-off so they are now moving forward and back to the hoop. When they are all back in the hoop a round is complete. To change it up for round 2, shift your 1st student 1 line clockwise and move them to the end of the line.

Challenges: How quickly can we all get the beanbags out of the hoop and back in again? Can we beat our time?

Boxer Kicks

Students are in pairs (of equal or mixed core fitness level). Partner A stands and Partner B lies supine, head near A’s feet, holding A’s ankles. Both A and B face the same direction. Partner B lifts both legs to 90° and A pushes them back down while B resists allowing their legs to touch the ground. Repeat until signal (30 seconds, then more as they get more fit), with Partner A pushing B’s feet off to R and L as well as straight down in random order. Reverse roles and repeat.

Challenge: How many times can you bring your feet up to your partner’s hands?


Students are in pairs (of equal or mixed core fitness level). Partner B lies in push-up position and Partner A stands near Partner B’s head, A’s hands hanging above B’s shoulders. Partner B twists from the hips up and raises R hand up to clap A’s hands, then back to push-up position. Repeat to L side, again clapping A’s hands. Continue until signal (30 seconds, then more as they get more fit). Reverse roles and repeat.

Challenges: How many claps can you give your partner before the signal? Can you complete a push-up between each “clap” you make with your partner?

Q: When kids say their legs hurt after an active day, should I be concerned?

A: It all depends on what kind of “hurt” it is. If students are getting injured due to exercise that is too intense or contraindicated for them, you should be concerned and should make adjustments in activities. Remember, all students will come to you at different fitness levels and should therefore not all be required to participate at the same level. Try doing the exercises yourself! See how it makes your body feel. So many teachers ask students to do things they haven’t tried lately or ever. Being a good role model and participating in some fitness activities serves many purposes.

If, however, many of your students are slightly sore in the muscle groups that were used in a muscular strengthening activity the day or 2 before, that is more likely due to overloading those muscle groups and will result in gains in strength when those muscles heal and rebuild. This kind of sore is OK and completely normal. It should go away in a few days.

Let us know what you think of these question and answers! If your school needs to develop a healthier environment, together, SPARK and HKC offer an “Ignite a Healthy Environment” Program (Click here for more info).

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