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How Much Exercise Do Kids Need?

  • Category: LiveSmart
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  • Written By: Baldwin

Physical activity is important for kids, but do you know how much and what kind is best?

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the U.S., and it is becoming more serious by the day. Over 30% of children are currently considered overweight or obese, making it the most common chronic disease of childhood.

Being overweight as a child not only has negative consequences at a young age, but sets the stage for other health problems to develop later in life, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

One way to combat obesity in children and to set the stage for kids to develop healthy lifelong habits is to encourage them to be more physically active. But how much exercise do kids actually need?

Although there’s not a magic number that differentiates healthy from unhealthy children or those who are overweight from those who are normal weight, guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services recommend that children ages 6 and older get at least an hour a day of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. This includes activities such as:

  • Running
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Brisk walking
  • Hiking
  • Skipping rope
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Ice skating
  • Martial arts
  • Playing sports such as soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball/softball or football

It is also recommended that children participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week. This includes activities such as:

  • Body weight activities, such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats or pull-ups
  • Rope or tree climbing
  • Swinging on playground equipment
  • Lifting weights or using resistance bands (age-appropriate)
  • Games like tug of war
  • Some forms of yoga

Additionally, children should do bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week, such as:

  • Running
  • Hopping
  • Skipping
  • Jumping
  • Sports involving jumping and quick changes in direction

Many activities may cover more than one category at the same time. For example, playing basketball is an aerobic activity that also strengthens bones and muscles.

Your child doesn’t have to be involved in organized sports to get in enough physical activity. Running around the playground and just letting kids be kids can keep them active and moving. If your child likes to climb, bring them to a jungle gym or climbing wall. If they like to explore, go on a hike through the woods. Even if reading is their favorite activity, take a walk to the local library to pick out a new book.

The possibilities for incorporating physical activity into a child’s day are endless and the importance of instilling a love of movement is priceless. By finding ways to get your child to embrace exercising, you’ll not only lower the chance of them being overweight, but will encourage a healthy habit mindset that will serve them well throughout their life.

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Date Last Reviewed: July 19, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Andrew Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS

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