Move More: How (and why) to make your unit meetings more active

We have met the enemy, and it is Netflix, Nintendo and Nickelodeon.

OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But the fact remains that as Scout leaders we’re on the front lines of the war against inactive youth.

Our day camps, weekend campouts and camporees have plenty of pulse-pounding action, but what about weekly meetings?

Active Scout meetings are the focus of Part 2 in the three principles of healthy living known as Drink Right, Move More, Snack SmartThe effort is the brainchild of Healthy Kids Out of School (with regional funding provided by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation), a Boy Scouts of America partner in the push for healthier Scouts.

Healthy Kids Out of School and the BSA are so serious that they’re even offering the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit patch to any Scout unit who makes a few easy, positive changes. More on that in a bit.

First, let’s look at how — and why — to make your unit meetings more active.

Why you should care

I don’t have to remind you about the childhood obesity crisis in this country. That word “crisis” isn’t overselling it, either: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that in 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

By now you’ve also heard the recommendation that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity a day — an effort (along with Drink Right and Snack Smart) to help turn that crisis around.

Fact is, less than half of school-aged children meet the recommendation. For teens, that number’s even lower: Only about 10 percent of teenagers get the recommended 60 minutes a day.

Kids don’t have to get all 60 minutes at once. That means you’re doing your part by scheduling even a 15-minute physical activity at your weekly meetings.

How to create more active Scout meetings

  1. Start by checking out the games and activities included in the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit patch packet. These games and activities can be incorporated into meetings or events as a break between things or as an opening or closing . You can also find more ideas for games and activities on the Healthy Kids Hub under “Find Resources.”
  2. Remember to get all Scouts participating in the physical activity in the meeting. Make the activity fun, noncompetitive and all-inclusive. Avoid elimination games or games that only involve a few children, and have leaders join in the game or activity to model physical activity.
  3. Let Scouts release energy through a physical-activity break, and they’ll come back to the meeting ready to focus.

healthy-kids-patchOh yeah, and there’s a patch

Making your Scout meetings more active can yield more than just healthier Scouts. You can also get a patch.

The SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit Patch, which encourages units to follow the BSA’s SCOUTStrong recommendations to Drink Right, Move More and Snack Smart at meetings, events and excursions is available free to any unit that completes the patch requirements.

One of those requirements, “Include 15 minutes of physical activity at 9 meetings,” ties in perfectly to today’s discussion.

Read all about the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit Patch here.

By the way, already 120 units and 1,671 Scouts across 25 states have earned the patch!

Advice from other Scouters

Here’s what three leaders had to say about making Scout meetings more active:

Den leader Dan from Summerville, S.C.: “A secret that made this so positive was that I made every attempt to keep if fun. We started off with calisthenics. None of the kids really wanted to do them until I did them myself!”

Den leader Lynn from Winchendon, Mass.: “I incorporated some team-building activities, as being able to work together is important to having a group of boys that will take the Scouting experience for all it is worth. The physical activity helped the boys shake out some of the silliness, especially after a long day at school.”

Cubmaster Bill from Rockaway, N.Y.: “All of us seem to be in better moods when we leave the meeting. I know the leaders enjoy the time outside during or after the meeting. I know the kids enjoy the extra time to play.”

Show us your moves

How do you schedule active time into weekly unit meetings? How do you make sure Scouts and Venturers don’t just sit around during campouts?

Share your ideas with the Scouting community below.

Photo: 2010 National Jamboree, by Tom Copeland Jr./BSA


  1. It starts with leadership. I see too many morbidly obese leaders that are inactive at Scouting events holding down chairs. How can they tell a Scout to maintain a healthy lifestyle? It would be very similar to Willy Wonka telling kids not to eat candy! We need more active leaders, ones that will demonstrate and get involved with the boys. It would go a long way from the old saying “Do as I say, not as I do!”

  2. Nobody in my troop hikes as much as I do, and I am the SM. I must admit to some discouragement that sedentary activities get much more boy participation than active ones, even when adult leaders are enthusiastic about activity.

    • A couple of things:

      A) The reason boys will want to hike are different than adults. Boys hike when their is a goal in mind, an objective, so more than lets just hike to that spring or lake. I try to encourage discussion along the way and encourage the boys to go where they want to go.
      B) Hiking is much more enjoyable when the objective is not that we must get to site X in X amount of time. Exploring is essential.
      C) Sounds like enthusiasm is lacking. There doesn’t seem to be a true Scouting Spirit within your unit. Seems like more people need to realize and feel more Scouting Spirit.

      I will admit that I don’t like to hike very much myself but I can tell you when the attitude is we go as a group and go as slow as necessary so all are comfortable will get your less active (myself included) to participate more fully.

  3. I agree. When I volunteered as a Scoutmaster, I quickly discovered that between the troop, my church responsibilities, my family, and my job, there just wasn’t enough time in the day. I also noticed that as I started to get bigger, the boys noticed. It was something to poke fun at for me until I realized I was the example. I started jogging and working out in the neighborhood with my kids in tow on their bikes, which ironically led to me seeing the boys and their families more, and my kids wanting to go more often. Not only did the boys and their families start to encourage me, but as a troop, their perspective changed. They became more active in their activities, to include planning a backpacking trip and working on the cycling merit badge. As the younger boys saw what the older boys were doing, they wanted in on the fun. Although this was almost 5 years ago, that unit still has an annual backpacking trip and cycling merit badge class.

    • Very cool. I need to work on motivation myself for me personally and then maybe it will jump start something positive.

  4. This brings to mind the old SM camp skit verse – “big belly, no hair, hey, where’s my easy chair?” – maybe that’s part of the problem.

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