How much physical activity do children need?
The amount of physical activity children need depends on their age. Children ages 3 through 5 years need to be active throughout the day. Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 need to be active for 60 minutes every day.
This may sound like a lot, but don’t worry! Children may already be meeting the recommended physical activity levels. You can also see ways to encourage children to participate in activities that are age-appropriate, enjoyable, and offer variety.
Recommendations for Children Ages 3 Through 5 Years
- Be physically active throughout the day for growth and development.
- Adult caregivers should encourage children to be active when they play.
Recommendations for Children and Adolescents Ages 6 Through 17 Years
- 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity each day.
- Aerobic activity: Most of the daily 60 minutes should include activities like walking, running, or anything that makes their hearts beat faster. At least 3 days a week should include vigorous-intensity activities.
- Muscle-strengthening: Includes activities like climbing or doing push-ups, at least 3 days per week.
- Bone-strengthening: Includes activities such as jumping or running, at least 3 days per week.
Want examples of what counts? Check out the aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activity for children and adolescents.
Also, school-based physical activity can help children meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
Check out this print-friendly age chart [PDF-422KB] for a quick snapshot of the recommended amount of weekly activity for children and teens.
On a scale of 0 to 10, where sitting is a 0 and the highest level of activity is a 10, moderate-intensity activity is a 5 or 6. When children do moderate-intensity activity, their heart beats faster, and they breathe much harder than when they are at rest or sitting. Vigorous-intensity activity is a level 7 or 8. When children do vigorous-intensity activity, their heart beats much faster than normal, and they breathe much harder than normal.
Another example is when children walk to school with friends each morning, they’re probably doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity. But when children run, or chase others while playing tag during recess, they’re probably doing vigorous-intensity activity.
Some physical activity is better-suited for children than adolescents. For example, younger children usually strengthen their muscles when they do gymnastics, play on a jungle gym, or climb trees. Children do not usually need formal muscle-strengthening programs, such as lifting weights. As children grow older and become adolescents, they may start structured weight lifting programs. They may do these types of programs along with their sports team practices.
Kids Need Physical Activity to Grow up Strong and Healthy
Check out the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition [PDF-15.2MB] for more information about the recommended levels of physical activity for children.
You can also learn more about physical activity levels for your child from the Move Your Way® Factsheet for Parents [PDF-1.6MB].
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