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Exercise Goals for Kids

Being physically active is an important part of a healthy life.  But how much activity should your child get? What kinds of activity are important? Do children need structured exercise programs? Read on to learn more about what your child should be aiming for.

Why does exercise matter for kids?

Being active can help kids have healthier body weights and less body fat. They will have stronger bones and muscles. And it will help them have better heart and lung fitness. Exercise also reduces feelings of depression in kids. It can help prevent illness in later life, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Unfortunately, many kids don’t get enough physical activity. Statistics show that TV time and computer games claim some of the time that could be spent on exercise.  And children who are unfit have a greater chance of being unfit adults. These kids are at higher risk for chronic disease and other health problems later in life.

Some unhealthy facts:

  • 50% of teens don’t exercise regularly

  • Adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day on TV, computers, games, and cell phones

  • More than 15% of school children are obese or overweight

  • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of being overweight or obese adults

  • 85% of kids with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese

Recommended goals for kids

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that kids ages 6 to 17 get 60 minutes or more of physical activity on most days of the week.

Most of those 60 or more minutes should be spent on aerobic activity.  Aerobic activity is movement that makes your heart beat faster and causes you to breathe faster.

At least three days a week, kids should include activity that strengthens muscles. And at least three days a week, kids should include activity that strengthens bones. Some activities strengthen both muscles and bones.

Active lifestyles by age

Kids don’t necessarily need to have a structured exercise program. Depending on their age, exercise can mean playground time, walking the dog, or playing a favorite sport. Younger children don’t need to go to exercise classes or lift weights. They can get exercise climbing a jungle gym or playing games in the park. Older kids can get more out of structured activities, such as organized sports or exercise classes.

As children get older, they often reduce their physical activity. But the positive experiences with activities that suit them will keep them coming back for more. So it’s important to encourage your child to do activities that are right for their age and fun for them.

Help your child get moving with these resources:

  • Encourage them to do the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) challenge.

  • Have them try the FITT Plan for Physical Activity.

  • Tell them to check out BAM! Body and Mind program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.