Exercise and activity - children

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Children should have many chances to play, run, bike, and play sports during the day. They should get 60 minutes of moderate activity every day.

Moderate activity makes your breathing and heartbeats speed up. Some examples are:

  • Walking fast
  • Playing chase or tag
  • Playing basketball and most other organized sports (such as soccer, swimming, and dancing)

Younger children cannot stick with the same activity as long as an older child. They may be active for only 10 - 15 minutes at a time. The goal is still to get 60 minutes of activity every day.

Why Exercise?

Children who exercise:

  • Feel better about themselves
  • Are more physically fit
  • Have more energy

Other benefits of exercise for children are:

  • A lower risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Healthy bone and muscle growth
  • Staying at a healthy weight

Getting Started

Some kids enjoy being outside and active. Others would rather stay inside and play video games or watch TV. If your child does not like sports or physical activity, look for ways to motivate him. These ideas may help children become more active.

  • Let children know that being active will give them more energy, make their bodies stronger, and make them feel better about themselves.
  • Give encouragement for physical activity and help children believe they can do it.
  • Be their role model. Start being more active if you are not already active yourself.
  • Make walking a part of your family's daily routine. Get good walking shoes and rain jackets for the wet days. Don't let rain stop you.
  • Go for walks together after dinner, before turning on the TV or playing computer games.
  • Take your family to community centers or parks where there are playgrounds, ball fields, basketball courts, and walking paths. It is easier to be active when people around you are active.

Find a Good Match

Organized sports and daily activities are good ways for your child to get exercise. You will have better success if you select activities that fit your child's preferences and abilities.

  • Individual activities include swimming, running, skiing, or biking.
  • Group sports are another option, such as soccer, football, basketball, karate, or tennis.
  • Choose an exercise that works well for your child's age. A 6-year-old may play outside with other kids, while a 16-year-old may prefer to run at a track.

Daily activities can use as much, or more, energy than some organized sports. Some everyday things your child can do to be active include:

  • Walk or bike to school.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Ride a bike with family or friends.
  • Take the dog for a walk.
  • Play outside. Shoot a basketball or kick and throw a ball around, for instance.
  • Play in the water -- at a local pool, in a water sprinkler, or splashing in puddles.
  • Dance to music.
  • Skate -- ice-skate, skate-board, or roller-skate.
  • Do household chores. Sweep, mop, vacuum, or load the dishwasher.
  • Take a family walk or hike.
  • Play computer games that involve moving your whole body.
  • Rake leaves and jump in the piles before bagging them up.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Weed the garden.


Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 5/10/2013
  • Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pe diatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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