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August 12, 2020

One PT’S Perspective on Physical Activity in a Pandemic

Kids running in the forest

It is no surprise that the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives in ways we could have not imagined. With changes in our daily routines impacting exercise opportunities, sleep schedules, screen time, and limiting our social interactions, the toll on our collective health and wellbeing is profound.

Prior to COVID -19, more than one third of children in the United States were identified as overweight or obese and 7.1% of children ages 3-17 were diagnosed as having clinical anxiety. In the context of this global pandemic, some experts are concerned  how the lack of access to exercise opportunities as well as how social isolation may exacerbate existing sedentary and stressful lifestyles.

It is recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for optimal muscle, bone, and physiological development. There is a well-established relationship between increased aerobic exercise and improvements in heart health and musculoskeletal resilience. Physical activity also plays a crucial role in the reduction of depressive symptoms and in negating the impacts of stress and anxiety. These benefits hold true for both children and adults. Especially in these unprecedented times, structuring small bouts of physical activity into one’s day can be wildly beneficial. Experts recommend consistent physical activity to combat stress and anxiety; emphasizing that now more than ever, physical activity should be utilized as a strategy to optimize health and wellbeing.

Physical activity does not look the same for everyone. Research has shown that one can reap the benefits from aerobic activity while performing bursts of activity as short as 30-90 seconds. So, whether you have 30 seconds or 3 hours, investing in your family’s physical and mental fitness can payoff tenfold.

Physical Activity Suggestions:


  • Chair Yoga
  • Minute to Win It Challenges
  • Go Noodle Website
  • Cosmic Kids Youtube Channel
  • Obstacle Course


  • Scavenger hunt
  • Walk or hike
  • Bike ride
  • Sport specific activities

*=adhering to social distancing and facial covering guidelines as deemed appropriate by your local government


Jen received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Creighton University in 2016. Following her passion for pediatric physical therapy, Jen completed a Pediatric Residency Program through Creighton University in 2017. Upon completion of her Residency, Jen moved back to the Pacific Northwest, where she currently lives and works in the greater Portland area. She enjoys working with children and has specific interests in early development, NICU developmental care, pediatric orthopedic conditions, and aquatic therapy. Outside of work, Jen enjoys reading and spending as much time outside as possible.


Ainsworth BE, Li F. Physical activity during the coronavirus disease-2019 global pandemic. J Sport Health Sci 2020;9:291-2.

Ghandour RM, Sherman LJ, Vladutiu CJ, et al. Prevalence and Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, and Conduct Problems in US Children. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2019;206. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.09.021

Importance of Physical Activity and Exercise during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Psychiatry: Michigan Medicine. Psychiatry. Published April 7, 2020.

O’Neil M, Fragala-Pinkham M, Miles C, Rowland J. Fact Sheet The Role and Scope of Pediatric Physical Therapy in Fitness, Wellness, Health Promotion, and Prevention. Pediatric APTA Fact Sheets.

The impact of COVID-19 on sport, physical activity and well-being and its effects on social development. United Nations. Published May 2020.

Disclaimer: The content presented in this post should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for information purposes. The author of this post and Virco entities are not responsible for any injury while performing an activity or exercise that has been described in this post.

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