Exercise and Children

Exercise is an important part of keeping children healthy. Encouraging healthy lifestyles in kids and teens is important for when they grow older. Habits that are learned in childhood are more likely to stay with the child into adulthood. Some changes in lifestyle can be harder to make the older a person becomes.

The best way to promote healthy lifestyles is for the whole family to be involved.

Creating an exercise plan

A daily exercise program is a fun way to share physical activity with family and friends. And it helps create good heart-healthy habits. The following exercise guidelines for children can help you and your child plan activities:

  • Children ages 3 through 5 should be physically active throughout the day, such as being active when they play. They should also move and be active in a variety of structured activities, such as bicycle or tricycle riding, throwing games, and activities including hopping, skipping, and jumping. This enhances growth and development.

  • Children ages 6 through 17 should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. This physical activity should include aerobic exercise such as bicycling or jumping rope, and bone-strengthening activities such as running or jumping. It should also include muscle-strengthening activities such as climbing or doing resistance exercises. This helps to maintain good health and fitness. And it helps kids stay at a healthy weight as they grow.

  • Limit children’s screen time (TV, video, and computers) to less than 2 hours a day. Replace these sitting activities with activities that require more movement.

Even doing low-to-medium intensity activities for as little as 30 minutes a day can be helpful. These activities may include:

  • Pleasure walking

  • Climbing stairs

  • Dancing

  • Home exercise

Regular aerobic activity increases a child’s capacity for exercise. It can help prevent heart diseases and type 2 diabetes and help to lower blood pressure. Aerobic activities are continuous activities that raise the heart rate and breathing rate. To prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink fluids often during physical activity. And to drink several glasses of water or other fluids without added sugar after the physical activity is done. Examples of vigorous activities may include:

  • Brisk walking

  • Running

  • Swimming

  • Cycling

  • Rollerblading or roller skating

  • Jumping rope

  • Playing on the playground

  • Dancing

  • Gymnastics

  • Hiking

  • Soccer

  • Tag games

Exercise on a regular basis is part of a healthy lifestyle. But some children can exercise too much. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if:

  • Your child begins losing weight and falls below expected growth patterns

  • Exercise gets in the way of other normal activities including school

Benefits from regular exercise or physical activity

These are just some of the benefits of regular exercise or physical activity:

  • Improves blood circulation throughout the body

  • Keeps weight under control

  • Improves blood cholesterol levels

  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure

  • Prevents bone loss

  • Boosts energy level

  • Releases tension

  • Improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well

  • Improves self-image

  • Helps manage stress

  • Counters anxiety and depression

  • Increases enthusiasm and optimism

  • Increases muscle strength

Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2021
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.