Aerobic, Muscle- and Bone-Strengthening: What Counts for School-Aged Children and Adolescents?

Learn more about meeting the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity for children from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd editionpdf iconexternal icon. [PDF-15.2MB]

Children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Include activities that make their hearts beat faster, build muscles (like climbing or doing push-ups), and strengthen bones (like running or jumping). A guide to activities that school-aged children and adolescents can do to meet the recommended activity levels is below. Encourage children to do any activity they enjoy, as long as the activities are safe and appropriate for your child’s age and skill level.

Many of these activities fall under 2 or 3 different categories. Children can do moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity on all days of the week. Children can do muscle- and bone-strengthening activity at least 3 days each week. Also, some activities, such as bicycling or basketball, can be done either at moderate or vigorous intensity, depending on your child’s level of effort.

The talk test is a simple way to measure relative intensity. In general, if children are doing moderate-intensity physical activity, they can talk but not sing during the activity. If children are doing vigorous-intensity physical activity, they will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

Physical Activity for Particular Age Types
Age Group
Type of Physical Activity School-Aged Children Adolescents
Moderate–intensity aerobic
  • Brisk walking
  • Bicycle riding (mostly on flat surfaces without many hills)
  • Active recreation, such as hiking, riding a scooter without a motor, swimming
  • Playing games that require catching and throwing, such as baseball and softball
  • Brisk walking
  • Bicycle riding (mostly on flat surfaces without many hills)
  • Active recreation, such as kayaking, hiking, swimming
  • House and yard work, such as sweeping or pushing a lawn mower
  • Playing games that require catching and throwing, such as baseball and softball
Vigorous –intensity aerobic
  • Running
  • Bicycle riding (may include hills)
  • Active games involving running and chasing, such as tag or flag football
  • Jumping rope
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Martial arts
  • Sports such as soccer, basketball, swimming, and tennis
  • Vigorous dancing
  • Running
  • Bicycle riding (may include hills)
  • Active games involving running and chasing, such as tag or flag football
  • Jumping rope
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Martial arts
  • Sports such as soccer, basketball, swimming, and tennis
  • Vigorous dancing
Muscle-strengthening
  • Games such as tug of war
  • Resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands
  • Rope or tree climbing
  • Climbing on playground equipment
  • Some forms of yoga
  • Games such as tug of war
  • Resistance exercises using body weight, resistance bands, weight machines, hand-held weights
  • Some forms of yoga
Bone-strengthening
  • Hopping, skipping, jumping
  • Jumping rope
  • Running
  • Sports that involve jumping or rapid changes in direction
  • Jumping rope
  • Running
  • Sports that involve jumping or rapid changes in direction