Physical activity in children and adolescents improves strength and endurance, builds healthy bones and lean muscles, develops motor skills and coordination, reduces fat, and promotes emotional well-being (reduces feelings of depression and anxiety). Activities should be appropriate for their age and fun, as well as offer variety. Talk to your physical therapist about setting your child up with a movement evaluation to assess body alignment and help your kids learn healthy movement habits!
The daily recommendation for physical activity for children 6 years and older is at least 60 minutes per day. Active play is the best exercise for younger children.
The types of physical activity should be moderate to vigorous. Vigorous activity is activity that makes you breathe hard and sweat. During vigorous activity, it would be difficult to have a talk with someone. Some activities, such as bicycling, can be of moderate or vigorous intensity, depending upon level of effort.
The 60 minutes does not need to be done all at once. Physical activity can be broken down into shorter blocks of time. For example, 20 minutes walking to and from school, 10 minutes jumping rope, and 30 minutes at the playground all add up to 60 minutes of physical activity. If your child is not active, start from where you are and build from there.
Types of Sports and Activities for Children and Teens (and Parents, Too!)
- Use body's large muscle groups
- Strengthen the heart and lungs
- Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises include:
- Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include:
Muscle-Strengthening (or Resistance) Activities
- Work major muscle groups of the body (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulder, arms)
- Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include:
- Games such as tug-of-war
- Push-ups or modified push-ups (with knees on the floor)
- Resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands
- Rope or tree climbing
- Sit-ups (curl-ups or crunches)
- Swinging on playground equipment/bars
Bone-Strengthening (Weight-Bearing) Activities
- Tone and build muscles and bone mass
- Can be aerobic exercises and muscle-strengthening activities
- Examples of bone-strengthening activities include:
About Strength Training
Strength training(or resistance training) uses a resistance to increase an individual's ability to exert force. It involves the use of weight machines, free weights, bands or tubing, or the individual's own body weight. This is not the same as Olympic lifting, power lifting, or body building, which are not recommended for children. Check with your child's doctor before starting any strength training exercises.