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Exercise and children

Alternative Names

Children and exercise


Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to be healthy. Lack of physical activity is contributing to a dangerous increase in childhood obesity.

Children should be given many opportunities to play, run, bike, and participate in sports, preferably on a daily basis. Exercise should be appropriate for the child's age. For example, a 6-year-old may play outside, while a 16-year-old may run at a track. Encourage your child to build strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity (for example, through running).

Children generally shouldn't be expected to exercise in the routine, formal way adults do (such as walking 3 miles every day or lifting weights). Instead, children should have activities that are:

  • Aerobic (such as walking to school)
  • Muscle strengthening (such as climbing on playground equipment)
  • Bone strengthening (such as running, jumping rope, or playing basketball)

Aerobic exercises, muscle strengthening exercises, and bone strengthening exercises should be included at least three times a week. Many activities combine these different types of exercise.


Feigelman S. Middle childhood. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 11.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Recommendation statement. 2008. Accessed March 1, 2009.

Review Date: 3/1/2009
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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