How much exercise should children get?

Experts recommend at least one hour of exercise for children daily. Children's exercise should be fun and stimulating. Parents should make sure that their child is getting aerobic exercise, muscle-strengthening exercise and bone-strengthening exercise. Getting outside with your children and exercising together will promote a healthy lifestyle for both you and your child.
Children ages 6 to 13 should:
  • Participate in 90 minutes of physical activity. If a child is currently more sedentary, this goal can be reached in stages by decreasing time spent in front of the TV or computer while increasing time spent in physical activity.
  • Achieve a variety of activities, not just one.
  • Schedule some vigorous activity.
  • The increase in physical activity should include a combination of moderate activity -- brisk walking, skating, and bike riding -- as well as vigorous activity, such as running and playing soccer.
From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.
Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

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Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

When kids start going on TV binges or devouring fistfuls of cookies, it's easy to say, "They'll grow out of it." More likely, they're acquiring bad habits that could lead to childhood obesity and...
It is recommended children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Obesity among children is at epidemic levels so it is extremely important we encourage children to 'get out and play'.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past 2 decades the prevalence of children who are overweight has doubled, while the number of overweight adolescents has tripled. Approximately 9 million children over the age of 6 years are obese.

Not only can regular daily physical activity help prevent children becoming more overweight, physical activity can also improve childrens health. Some of the benefits for children if they exercise regularly include: stronger bones and joints, a decrease in body fat, a healthier cardiovascular system, increased energy levels, a better ability to handle stress, improved self-confidence and self-esteem, and a better opportunity to make new friends.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children should engage in at least one hour of physical activity that includes a combination of aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening.  Most of a child’s physical activity should be aerobic in nature, with examples of aerobic activity include biking, brisk walking, running, and even swimming. 

The following are examples provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

 Moderate Intensity Aerobic Activity

  • Hiking
  • Skateboarding
  • Rollerblading
  • Biking
  • Walking to school

 Vigorous Intensity Aerobic Activity

  • Games involving running and chasing
  • Jumping rope
  • Ice or Field hockey
  • Basketball, tennis, gymnastics

 Muscle Strengthening

  • Tug of war
  • Modified push-ups
  • Resistance exercise
  • Swinging on playground equipment

 Bone Strengthening

  • Hop-scotch
  • Jumping, skipping
  • Running
  • Basketball, volleyball, tennis, gymnastics

Experts say children should get at least an hour of exercise daily. Exercise enhances self-esteem, boosts overall fitness, alleviates stress and improves sleep.

It is recommended that children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day. That may sound like a lot, but don’t worry this can be accumulated throughout the day and your child may already be meeting these recommendations.

Diana K. Blythe, MD

Children need one hour of exercise daily. Unfortunately, most children get much less despite the fact that increased exercise helps their physical health, self esteem and sleep quality.

If your child is not exercising at all, do not start with one hour daily. Start slowly with just fifteen or twenty minutes daily for a week or two. Once they are feeling good, start increasing slowly until they have achieved one hour every day. If your child is exercising some but not much, start by making sure they exercise daily, then increase the time that they exercise slowly.

By going slowly, they will be less likely to get hurt but also important is that they have fun. Children get bored easily so playing team sports or activities that involve other kids will make them more likely to stick with it.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.