What types of physical activity do children need?

Children need to engage in daily physical activity. Because of their young age their central nervous system is open to learning new human movements. Therefore, their activity should include basic fundamentally sound activities such as running, jumping, squatting, pulling, and pushing.  Spending a afternoon at the playground or playing various sports will call all these movements into action. 

While meeting their daily goal of 60 minutes or more of physical activity, kids should include each of the following three types of physical activity on at least three days a week:
  • Vigorous aerobic activities: These kinds of activities involve rhythmic movements of large muscles (arms and legs) and get kids’ hearts pumping and blood flowing. Aerobic activities can be moderate intensity or vigorous intensity. How do you measure the intensity of an activity? Imagine a scale from zero to 10, where sitting is zero intensity and the highest level of effort possible is 10. Moderate-intensity activity is a five or six. Kids will notice that their hearts are beating faster than normal and they are breathing harder than normal. A good example is a brisk walk to school. Vigorous intensity activity is at a level of seven or eight. Kids will feel their heart beating much faster than normal, and they will be breathing much harder than normal. A good example is running on the playground. Keep in mind that children often do activities in short bursts, which may not technically be aerobic (because brief activity doesn’t increase the heart rate for a long period of time). However, this activity still counts toward their daily 60 minutes.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities: These kinds of activities make muscles do more work than they usually do during typical activities of daily life. Muscle-strengthening activities can be unstructured and part of play, such as playing on playground equipment, climbing trees, and playing tug-of-war, or they can be structured activities, such as lifting weights or working with resistance bands. Be sure to check with your pediatrician about age-specific weight-lifting guidelines before your child or teen starts a program.
  • Bone-strengthening activities: These kinds of activities produce a force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength. This force is commonly produced by impact with the ground.
Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

More About this Book

Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens

In a world of fast food, supersized sodas, and televised temptations, this guide shows how to buck the obesity trend currently in the national spotlight—and have fun doing it. Using a family...

Continue Learning about Fitness For Children

Boost Kids' Fitness With Activity Zones
Boost Kids' Fitness With Activity Zones
On the school playground, getting “in the zone” is a smart way for kids to reach their goals—of more physical activity and better classroom performanc...
Read More
How much physical activity should kids get each day?
Int'l Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)Int'l Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)
The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that children should have moderate physical activity at ...
More Answers
Is resistance training safe for kids?
Melissa Hatton, NASM Elite TrainerMelissa Hatton, NASM Elite Trainer
Yes, resistance training is safe for kids when precautions are taken. Children should not load weigh...
More Answers
How Do You Get the Message Out About Fitness, Sports and Nutrition?
How Do You Get the Message Out About Fitness, Sports and Nutrition?

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.