How much exercise a day do children need?

Answer From Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services say that children and adolescents age 6 and older need at least an hour a day of physical activity. Most of the hour should be either moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. Vigorous activity should be included at least three days a week. Children should also participate in muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children ages 3 to 5 be physically active throughout the day to enhance their growth and development. Adults that care for children can encourage them to participate in active play that includes a variety of activities.

Many common school-age activities — such as playing on playground equipment and jumping rope — cover all the bases at once. Organized sports such as baseball or soccer are a great way to stay fit too. But team sports or dance classes aren't the only options.

Get creative as you search for activities your child enjoys. If your child is artistically inclined, consider a nature hike to collect leaves and rocks for use in a collage. If your child likes to climb, head for the nearest jungle gym or climbing wall. If your child loves reading, walk or bike to a local library for a book. Or simply turn on your child's favorite music and dance together.

Exercise with your child to better your own health while helping your child develop sound exercise habits. You are a role model as a parent, and your child is more likely to be physically active if you make physical activity a family priority.

Remember, incorporating physical activity into your child's daily routine sets the foundation for a lifetime of fitness and good health. Other benefits include improved aerobic fitness, muscle strength and endurance in children ages 6 to 17, improved bone health and weight status in children ages 3 to 17, and reduced risk of depression in children ages 6 to 17. Children ages 6 to 13 can also have improved cognitive function, such as thinking and memory skills, with regular physical activity.

Dec. 14, 2018 See more Expert Answers