Exercise and Children

Exercise is an important part of keeping children healthy. Encouraging healthy lifestyles in children and adolescents is important for when they grow older. Lifestyles 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 the person becomes.

Boys playing soccer with their dad

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

Establishing an exercise plan

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

  • Children need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days for maintenance of good health and fitness and for healthy weight during growth.

  • Parents are encouraged to limit children’s screen time (TV, video, and computers) to less than two hours daily and replace these sedentary activities with activities that require more movement.

Even low-to-moderate intensity activities for as little as 30 minutes a day can be beneficial. These activities may include the following:

  • Pleasure walking

  • Climbing stairs

  • Dancing

  • Home exercise

Regular aerobic activity increases a child's capacity for exercise and plays a role in prevention of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. Aerobic activities are continuous activities that cause the heart rate and breathing rate to increase. Aerobic exercise can also help to lower blood pressure. To prevent dehydration, encourage children to drink fluid regularly during physical activity and drink several glasses of water or other fluids without added sugar after the physical activity is completed. Examples of vigorous activities may include the following:

  • Brisk walking

  • Running

  • Swimming

  • Cycling

  • Roller skating

  • Jumping rope

  • Playing on the playground

  • Dancing

  • Gymnastics

  • Hiking

  • Soccer

  • Tag games

For children, daily exercise may help prevent conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, and poor lifestyle habits that may lead to heart conditions later in life.

Exercise on a regular basis is part of a healthy lifestyle. However, some children can exercise too much. If your child begins losing weight and falls below expected growth patterns, or if exercise interferes with other normal activities including school, consult your child's health care provider.

Benefits from regular exercise or physical activity

The following are just some of the benefits that regular exercise or physical activity provides:

  • 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