How much physical activity do children need?

How much physical activity do children need?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. This can include any type of movement, whether for recreation, transportation, or work, and activities of moderate to intense intensity are beneficial for health. Walking, cycling, running, sports, recreation, and play are all common ways to stay active, regardless of skill level. Regular exercise can improve physical and mental health, as well as overall well-being.

Depending on their age, children can engage in the following three forms of activity:

  • The majority of a child’s daily activity should consist of aerobic activities, such as brisk walking and running, ranging from moderate to intense intensity.
  • Exercises that help build stronger muscles, such as push-ups, sit-ups, climbing trees, gymnastics, and other exercises, should be included in a child’s structured activity regimen at least three days a week.
  • Children should engage in exercises that strengthen bones, such as playing football, basketball, or skipping, at least three days a week.

How much physical activity is recommended?

The ideal amount of physical activity for optimal health varies depending on age and specific population groups.

Little ones between the ages of one and two years old should 

  • Exercise for at least 180 minutes a day, with a mix of different intensities, including moderate to intense activity; avoid sitting for prolonged periods, such as in high chairs or strollers
  • Not watch TV or play video games
  • Be given less screen time—no more than an hour; read or listen to stories while sitting and get 11-14 hours of sound sleep per day, including naps, with regular bedtimes and wake-up times

Children between the ages of 3 and 4 should

  • Engage in physical activity for at least three hours per day, at any intensity, and avoid being restrained for more than an hour at a time in strollers or prams
  • Be limited to less than an hour of screen time
  • Be encouraged to read or listen to stories when sitting; get 10-13 hours of sound sleep per day, including a nap, with regular bedtimes and wake-up times

Children and teenagers aged 5 to 17 should

  • Engage in at least one hour of moderate to intense aerobic activity, five days a week
  • Incorporate exercises that strengthen bones and muscles, as well as at least three days of high-intensity aerobic activity per week
  • Reduce time spent on inactive screen time

Also Read: Top 10 ways to build confidence in your students

What can parents do to get their child active?

Parents have a significant impact on their child’s attitudes and habits towards physical activity. It is recommended to encourage children to participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, which can include team sports or free-form active play. Here are some techniques to help achieve this:

  • Start early – Little kids enjoy playing and being active. By encouraging safe, unstructured movement and play, parents can establish a solid foundation for an active lifestyle.
  • Set a good example by maintaining an active lifestyle yourself.
  • Include exercise into your everyday routine by taking family walks or engaging in active games as a family.
  • Offer toys and games that promote exercise to your child.
  • Take your child to places where they can be active, such as community cricket, badminton courts, or parks.
  • Be supportive of your child’s participation in activities to pique their interest in new activities.
  • Make exercise enjoyable. Every enjoyable activity for the child, whether scheduled or not, can be considered fun. Sports, whether team or individual, as well as recreational activities like walking, running, skating, bicycling, swimming, playground games, or unstructured playtime, are all examples of activities.
  • Encourage your child to find entertaining things to do on their own or with friends and family after supper rather than watching television. Some ideas include strolling, playing chase, or riding bikes.
  • Be careful! For activities like riding bikes or scooters, skateboarding, scaling rock walls, and other activities where there may be a high risk of injury, ensure that the activities are suitable for your child’s age.

Since not every child has the same interests, parents should be creative in discovering the activities that their child enjoys. For example, a walk to collect rocks or leaves would be an excellent suggestion for a child who enjoys the outdoors. A child who enjoys climbing would benefit greatly from a climbing wall or a jungle gym. A trip to the library might spark the curiosity of a young reader. Children can also be kept active indoors by simply dancing to their favorite music in the living room.


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