How much physical activity do children need?
This depends on how old your child is, and ranges from being active throughout the day for preschool-aged children (ages 3 through 5 years) to being active for 60 minutes or more for school-aged children and adolescents (ages 6 through 17 years). This may sound like a lot, but don’t worry! Your child may already be meeting the recommended physical activity levels. And, you’ll soon discover all the easy and enjoyable ways to help your child meet the recommendations. Encourage your child to participate in activities that are age-appropriate, enjoyable, and offer variety!
Recommended Levels for Preschool-Aged Children (ages 3 through 5 years)
- Preschool-aged children (ages 3 through 5 years) should be physically active throughout the day for growth and development.
- Adult caregivers should encourage preschool-aged children to be active when they play.
Recommended Levels for School-Aged Children and Adolescents (ages 6 through 17 years)
- Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day, including daily aerobic – and activities that strengthen bones (like running or jumping) – 3 days each week, and that build muscles (like climbing or doing push-ups) – 3 days each week.
These three types of physical activity should be included each week for children and adolescents:
1. Aerobic Activity
Most of your child’s daily 60 minutes of physical activity should be aerobic activities, like walking, running, or anything that makes their hearts beat faster. In addition, encourage them to do aerobic activities at least 3 days a week that make them breathe fast and their hearts pound.
Include muscle-strengthening activities, such as climbing or doing push-ups, at least 3 days per week as part of your child’s daily 60 minutes or more.
Include bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping or running, at least 3 days per week as part of your child’s daily 60 minutes or more.
Want examples of what counts? Check out the aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activity for children and adolescents.
How do I know if my child’s aerobic activity is moderate- or vigorous-intensity?
Here are two ways to think about a moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity:
- On a scale of 0 to 10, where sitting is a 0 and the highest level of activity is a 10, moderate-intensity activity is a 5 or 6. When your child does moderate-intensity activity, their heart will beat faster and they will breathe much harder than when they are at rest or sitting. Vigorous-intensity activity is a level 7 or 8. When your child does vigorous-intensity activity, their heart will beat much faster than normal and they will breathe much harder than normal.
- Another example, is when your child walks to school with friends each morning. They’re probably doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity. But while at school, when your child runs, or chases others by playing tag during recess, they’re probably doing vigorous-intensity activity.
Some physical activity is better-suited for children than adolescents. For example, younger children usually strengthen their muscles when they do gymnastics, play on a jungle gym, or climb trees. Children do not usually need formal muscle-strengthening programs, such as lifting weights. As children grow older and become adolescents, they may start structured weight lifting programs. For example, they may do these types of programs along with their football or basketball team practices.
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