Encouraging Kids to Move

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Children need regular physical activity to be healthy, to learn about their bodies and how to use them and for general health. Recess, sports teams, and running around the neighborhood all count. If you have a child in your life who is not getting the recommended 60 minutes of vigorous activity a day, you may find some of these suggestions valuable.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Kids and teens benefit from physical activity just like adults do. They have better cardiovascular health and stronger muscles, and reduce their risk for developing chronic diseases later in life. Regular movement also encourages a healthy weight in children. If a child has special health circumstances, speak to their pediatrician before encouraging physical activity.

Types of Physical Activity

Overall, children and adolescents should get at least an hour of physical activity per day. All instances of activity count towards the hour. For example, young children may frequently stop to negotiate the rules of the game they are playing with each other, or to examine something interesting they have seen. The time spent moving between these pauses counts, even though it is frequently interrupted.

The physical activity should be moderate or vigorous. For example, a child walking slowly on the way to the school office would not count towards the hour a day, but a child walking quickly to obey a no-running rule, or a child running on a playground, would count. 

Aerobic activity is movement that makes the person doing it breathe hard as they move around, such as running, jumping, hopping, skipping, swimming, skating or biking, and other similar activities. Most of the sixty minutes of activity per day should be aerobic activity.

Muscle-strengthening activity works to get the muscles stronger by making them work harder than usual. In adults and adolescents, this may be lifting weights or using resistance bands. In younger children, monkey bars, climbing trees and playground equipment, or playing tug-o-war count.

Bon-strengthening activity makes the bones stronger by putting more force on them than usual, usually by using impact with the ground. These activities can also be aerobic activities and muscle-strengthening activities, like running, jumping rope, or hopscotch. 

Examples of Activities

Some examples of physical activities that kids and teens may participate in are below. If a child likes a physical activity, she is more likely to do it and to get the recommended amount of exercise.

  • Physical education (PE) class
  • Recess
  • Hopping, hopscotch
  • Jumping, skipping, jumping/skipping rope
  • Running, either around the playground, or cross-training, cross-country, track, or tag
  • Climbing tree or playground equipment
  • Soccer, basketball, baseball, football, volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey
  • Dancing, ballet, gymnastics
  • Swimming (lessons or playing in the pool or other body of water)
  • Bicycling, skating, skateboarding

Source: Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion