Exercise and Children

footballAccording to a study done by the National Children and Youth Fitness Study:

  • At least half of youth do not engage in physical activity that promotes long-term health.
  • Fewer than 36 percent of elementary and secondary schools offer daily physical education classes.
  • Most classes were unlikely to foster lifelong physical activity.

Exercise is an important part of keeping children healthy. Encouraging healthy lifestyles in children and teens is important for when they grow older. Lifestyles that are learned in childhood are more likely to stay with the child into adulthood. Changes in lifestyle are harder to make the older the person becomes. The best way to promote healthy lifestyles is for the whole family to become involved. 

A daily exercise program can provide a way to share an activity with family and friends and help create good heart-healthy habits. The current guidelines for children are below: 

  • A daily period of time that adds up to 60 minutes (1 hour) = Health benefits.
  • School-age youth should participate daily in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is developmentally appropriate, enjoyable, and involves a variety of activities.
  • Cumulative activity, not necessarily sustained

Aerobic Activity
Increases cardiorespiratory fitness

Muscle Strengthening
Strengthen muscles

Bone Strengthening
Promotes bone growth and strength


Jumping rope

Playing on playground

Climbing trees
Lifting weights
Resistance bands
Structured or unstructured


Jumping rope

More vigorous aerobic activities are best for improving the fitness of the heart and lungs.  Aerobic activities are continuous activities that cause the heart rate to increase and cause the breathing rate to increase.  Regular aerobic physical activity increases a child's capacity for exercise and plays a role in prevention of heart diseases. Aerobic exercise may also help to lower blood pressure.

Exercise on a regular basis is part of a healthy lifestyle. However, some children can exercise too much. If your child begins losing weight and falls below his/her normal growth patterns, or if exercise interferes with other normal activities and school, talk with your child's physician.

For children and teens, daily exercise may help prevent conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, and poor lifestyle habits that may lead to heart conditions later in life. Research shows that children who grow up with healthy exercise habits are more likely to continue those habits as adults.

The following are just some of the benefits that regular exercise or physical activity provides:

  • Improves blood flow
  • Keeps weight under control
  • Improves blood cholesterol levels
  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure
  • Prevents bone loss
  • Boosts energy level
  • Releases tension
  • Improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well
  • Improves self-image
  • Helps manage stress
  • Counters anxiety and depression
  • Increases enthusiasm and optimism
  • Builds strong muscles and bones

Last Updated 02/2016