One of the ways that occupational therapy supports clients, patients, and students is by targeting the areas impacting functional performance in daily tasks, and endurance activities are one of those underlying skills. When our patients lack the endurance to participate in daily activities, full participation is impacted. Today, we’re discussing endurance activities to support daily occupations.
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In this post we will look at some classic endurance activities, as well as learn about aerobic exercises that kids can do without realizing they are “working out”.
According to the American Heart Association, “endurance exercise is one of the four types of exercise along with strength, balance and flexibility. Ideally, all four types of exercise would be included in a healthy workout routine”.
Additional contributions include:
Also called aerobic exercise, endurance activities include exercises that increase your breathing and heart rate such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking and jumping rope.
Children, along with adults, need to engage in a certain amount of aerobic or endurance activities to keep their mind and body healthy. These skills enable physical health and overall wellbeing.
Endurance activity keeps your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy and improves your overall fitness. As a result, people who get the recommended regular physical activity can reduce the risk of many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Endurance activities build muscles and increase the ability to sustain exercise for longer periods of time.
Not only are endurance activities great for the mind and body, they are excellent for aiding in regulating the sensory system. Endurance activities can help to organize the vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, and tactile systems.
Endurance also is a tool in improving arousal level. Check out this post on Zones of Regulation and Self Regulation Activities. When you think about how sensory dysregulation appears, it can be a visual picture of low endurance and sensory organization of the nervous system. Having self regulation strategies on hand supports these needs.
classic endurance activities
There are numerous endurance activities appropriate for people of all ages. Children should get 60 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week. Hint: don’t call it exercise, or no one will want to play!
Classic endurance activities like the ones listed below, are a great way to get moving
Running – this can include jogging, speed walking, sprinting, galloping, and skipping. Running can also be part of other activities like organized sports or fun outdoor games such as tag games.
Walking – included is hiking, or taking a brisk walk around the park. Another option is HIIT treadmill workouts.
Swimming – this does not have to be done competitively in order to be beneficial. Children can spend hours diving for pennies, racing their friends, diving into the pool, or jumping up and down in the water.
Biking – two wheeled bikes, tricycles, scooters, skateboards, skating, balance bikes, big wheels, or anything else with wheels. Stay clear of motorized vehicles when looking for endurance activities. Here are tips to teach bike riding and ideas to support balance and endurance needs with bike riding.
Sports – organized sports provide great exercise opportunities. These can be team sports like football or baseball, or individual activities such as martial arts, gymnastics, skiing, or fencing. Not everyone is suited for an organized group sport.
Jumping rope – this classic endurance activity works on a plethora of skills. In addition to coordination, jumping rope improves balance, endurance, motor planning, and more. Other skills while jumping rope include hopping, one foot at a time, both feet together, and double Dutch. While practicing hopping and jumping, grab some chalk and make a hopscotch game.
Dancing – jamming to favorite tunes, organized dance class, aerobic fitness class, or following along with videos
Calisthenics – this is the “old fashioned” word for muscular endurance activities. These include; sit ups, push ups, burpees, jumping jacks, planks, squats, and lunges. Muscular endurance, is all about sustained efforts over a longer period of time.
Yard work or chores – while these are not generally preferred activities, they are a great way to get the heart rate and breathing going.
Skipping– This is a great endurance activity. Use some of our tips to teach skipping if motor planning and coordination is a challenge.
non-traditional endurance activities
There are definitely a large group of people who resist exercise of any kind. This group might need a little hidden exercise disguised as a fun game. While I am not a fan of electronics, games like the Wii, or Peloton combine exercise and technology. There are tons of other endurance activities that are just plain fun:
- Tag games– who doesn’t love a great game of tag? Freeze tag, blob, Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, Musical Chairs, Flashlight tag, Duck Duck Goose, Mother May I, relay races, Zombie Tag, are just a few.
- Ball games like Dodge Ball, Four Square, and Spike Ball are fan favorites
- Classic outdoor lawn games such as Capture the Flag, Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, Simon Says, and Cops and Robbers will bring back fond memories
- Obstacle courses – turn your house or backyard into an obstacle course. Become the next American Ninja Warrior!
- Organized Play – if you prefer, there are great places to take the kids to get some exercise. The playground, trampoline park, mini golf, amusement parks, water parks, rock climbing, are just a few choices. These playground balance activities are more ideas.
- Brain Breaks– many brain break activities are actually endurance work disguised as themed movements. Try our list of Brain Break videos on YouTube for more ideas.
- Yoga activities like unicorn yoga improve core strength and stability.
Endurance Activiies resources
These activities are designed to develop strength and endurance through play:
- Jungle Animal Heavy Work Exercises – Need to add heavy work to help kids regulate emotions, or to use as a coping tool for sensory needs? Help kids re-group or add movement into learning with these Jungle animal themed brain break cards.
- June Heavy Work Exercises – These adorable movement and heavy work activity cards will not only bring joy to students but also help them unleash their full learning potential, while caregivers can effortlessly provide easy and enjoyable activities.
- Fit Deck (Amazon affiliate link) has some great workout flash cards for children and adults.
- Little Tykes Stationary bike – this includes a video screen for the reluctant learner
final thoughts on endurance activities
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Less than one-quarter (24%) of children 6 to 17 years of age participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day.” They also state that:
- Students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance (executive function and memory), and classroom behaviors (compliance, attention, and on-task behavior).
- Higher physical activity and physical fitness levels are associated with improved cognitive performance (concentration, memory) among students.
“When I was a kid…..” we played outside all of the time. We came inside for dinner and went back out again. There also were not as many people with health issues, obesity, attention, or behavioral issues. While people have made many advances in technology and medicine, screen time and technology use has changed things. Let us not forget the basics of play and endurance activities in order to be healthy and well rounded.
Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.