How much exercise a day do children need?

Answer From Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services recommend that children and adolescents age 6 and older get at least an hour a day of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. Children should do vigorous activities, such as running or biking, at least three days a week. They should also participate in muscle-strengthening activities, such as body weight exercises, at least three days a week. Children should also do bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope or running, 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 who care for children can encourage them to participate in active play that includes many 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 artistic, consider a nature hike to collect leaves and rocks for use in a collage. If your child likes climbing, 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, and your child is more likely to be physically active if you make physical activity a family priority. Take a family bike ride or walk together, or play catch in the yard. Plant a family garden, and watch vegetables and flowers grow over time. Limit screen time on devices and think of ways to get active with your child instead.

Remember, including physical activity into your child's daily routine sets the foundation for a lifetime of fitness and good health. Other physical activity benefits include:

  • Improved aerobic fitness, muscle strength and endurance in children ages 6 to 17
  • Improved bone health and healthy weight in children ages 3 to 17
  • Reduced depression risk in children ages 6 to 17
  • Improved thinking and memory skills in children ages 6 to 13

So, start including physical activity in your child's daily activities — and have fun!

May 25, 2021