How much exercise should your children really be getting

Children and adolescents are defined as an individual aged 6-17 years old. This is the most important age group to instill a healthy relationship with physical activity and exercise. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children should engage in at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity on at least 3 days a week. In the United States, only 42% of children are meeting this recommendation.

Exercise and physical activity should look a little different than what you adults are use to. Since we want to encourage healthy lifestyle habits, we want to be able to seamlessly add fun and exciting activities for children into their everyday schedule. The first way we do this is to make exercising and physical activity enjoyable and age appropriate for them. So instead of hitting the gym or running for an hour we would encourage them to ride their bikes, play on playgrounds, play hopscotch, jump rope, play tag, go swimming or play a sport. Although we would prefer to have them do those types of activities, there is nothing wrong with children starting to get use to using weights or resistance bands with adult supervision and correct mechanical form being taught.

The second part to learning healthy lifestyle habits is to reduce their sedentary time. This would include sitting on the couch, watching tv, being on the computer or playing video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children limit total screen time to less than 2 hours a day. Excess screen time has been associated with increased adiposity, decreased fitness, and elevated blood pressure and cholesterol.

Children are physiologically adaptive to aerobic exercise, resistance training and bone loading exercise. Exercise training can produce improvements in cardio metabolic risk factors, weight control, bone strength, neuromuscular movements, and psychological well being and may help prevent sports-related injuries. Recent evidence also supports the concept that physical activity and physical fitness are positively associated with cognitive and academic achievements. Therefor, the benefits of exercise are much greater than the risk.

So how much exercise should children be getting? Below is the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Recommendations for Children and Adolescents


Frequency - Daily

Intensity - should be moderate to vigorous

Time - As part of 60 minutes a day

Type - Enjoyable and developmentally appropriate activities, including biking, swimming, dancing or sports


Frequency - at least 3 days a week

Intensity - Use of body weight or resitance bands with 8-15 reps with good mechanical form

Time - As part of the 60 minutes a day

Type - playing on playground, climbing a tree, tug of war, or the use of weights or resistance bands

Bone Strengthening

Frequency - at least 3 days a week

Intensity- NA

Time - As part of 60 min of exercise

Type - running, jump rope, basketball, tennis, resistance training.

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