Repeated school closures, lockdowns and the interruption of extra-curricular activities has had a significant effect on our fitness. But there are plenty of great apps to help family members of all ages get outside and moving again.
Sedentary screen time increased by two-thirds among children and teens during the pandemic, according to a study published in the medical journal Children.
Homeschooling, of course, was one obvious reason for this. Yet as playgrounds, leisure centres and sports clubs closed, our children’s free time was increasingly spent indoors and on-screen, too. This, the study suggests, may have been the biggest factor in their reduced activity outdoors.
Leanne Davies is a children’s fitness specialist who oversees Little Space – the UK’s only health club designed exclusively for children. She has seen this impact first-hand.
“The pandemic has had a noticeable effect,” she says. “Most children not being in school and only allowed outdoors for an hour at some stages, has led to a big reduction in time to be active, coupled with an increased level of screen time.”
Habits are hard to break. But as the world opens up again, we all need to stand up, shake ourselves off, and step outside. For children, the benefits are huge.
“Physical activity increases children’s confidence and social skills, concentration and learning, and sleep too,” stresses Ms Davies. Meanwhile, another study published last year in the journal BMC Public Health warns that: “Short-term changes in physical activity and sedentary behaviour in reaction to COVID-19 may become permanently entrenched, leading to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in children.”
So if your kids have got out of the habit of physical exercise, how do you drag them off the sofa or bed, away from their screens and out into the fresh air? Luckily, there are apps to help.
Here are five of the best designed to get your child – from toddler to teenager – motivated, active and exercising. Hopefully you’ll see their moods improve, too!
Ages 2-6: Cosmic Kids
Credits: Cosmic Kids
Packed with colourful cartoon characters and positive affirmations, the Cosmic Kids Yoga app is a fantastic introduction to yoga and the benefits of looking after both your body and mind.
Each video is a mini-yoga class, often taking inspiration from blockbuster children’s films (such as a Frozen-themed session). The classes can be done in the garden or a park, and there’s even a special “great outdoors” tutorial on mindful walking in nature.
£49.99 a year, or £6.99 a month. Available on the App Store or Google Play
Ages 7-11: Walkr: Galaxy Adventure in Your Pocket
By promising an out of this world adventure, this game encourages you to “grab your phone and venture outside”. The premise is simple and sweet: a child-genius has built a rocket ship fuelled by “walking energy”.
Download the app, and the pedometer measures your child’s movement. The more exercise they get outdoors, the more fuel they earn in the game, allowing them to explore 50 different planets in their rocket and meet lost space creatures. So, get ready for blast off!
Free to play. Available on the App Store or Google Play
Ages 12-16: Zombies, Run!
Designed to make running more fun, this app has been downloaded 10 million times since its release in 2012. Download it, head outside, put your headphones in, and press run. As you move, you’ll hear sound effects and story updates about how you’re being chased by zombies as you collect vital supplies to save yourself and others from a zombie attack. Guaranteed to make tweens run a little further and faster!
Free to play, with in-app purchases. Available on the App Store and Google Play
16 and up: Charity Miles
Credits: Charity Miles
This free app enables users to earn money for charity every time they walk, run, cycle or even dance. Teens can pick a charity that chimes with them, then the GPS and motion sensors on their device will track their movements. Every mile moved results in a donation. Friends and family can sign up as sponsors too, to boost donations and your teen’s motivation.
Free. Available on the App Store and Google Play
Ages 4 to 84: Wakeout!
2020’s “iPhone App of the Year”, as chosen by Apple, is designed to help us get active wherever we are, and without any special equipment. Hit the outdoor button for exercises that will get you into the fresh air, then select your mood and preferred duration and – voila – the app generates quick, fun, mood-boosting activities with photo or video demonstrations. Suitable for everyone from four to 84. So now there’s really no excuse…
7-day free trial, then £33.99 a year for full access. Available on App Store