When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym, running on a treadmill, or lifting weights.
But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes, or when playing tag.
Everyone can benefit from regular exercise. Kids who are active will:
Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better. They're also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test.
If you've ever watched kids on a playground, you've seen the three elements of fitness in action when they:
Parents should encourage their kids to do a variety of activities so that they can work on all three elements.
Endurance develops when kids regularly get aerobic activity. During aerobic exercise, the heart beats faster and a person breathes harder. When done regularly and for extended periods of time, aerobic activity strengthens the heart and improves the body's ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
Aerobic exercise can be fun for both adults and kids. Examples of aerobic activities include:
Improving strength doesn't have to mean lifting weights. Although some kids benefit from weightlifting, it should be done under the supervision of an experienced adult. Most kids don't need a weight-training program to be strong. Push-ups, stomach crunches, pull-ups, and other exercises help tone and strengthen muscles. Kids also use strength activities during play when they climb, do a handstand, or wrestle.
Stretching exercises help improve flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to bend and move easily through their full range of motion. Kids get chances every day to stretch when reach for a toy just out of reach, practice a split, or do a cartwheel.
Being overweight or obese in childhood has become a serious problem. Many things add to this epidemic, but a big part of it is that kids are becoming more sedentary. In other words, they're sitting around a lot more than they used to.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8- to 18-year-olds watch about 4½ hours of television a day over 7½ hours on all screen media combined (TV, videos, and DVDs, computer and video games). Too much screen time and not enough physical activity add to the problem of childhood obesity.
One of the best ways to get kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or playing video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents:
Parents should make sure that their kids get enough exercise. So, how much is enough? Kids and teens should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) offers these activity guidelines for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers:
Minimum Daily Activity
No specific requirements
Physical activity should encourage motor development
30 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)
60 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)
1 hour or more
Break up into bouts of 15 minutes or more
Infants and young children should not be inactive for prolonged periods of time — no more than 1 hour unless they're sleeping. And school-age children should not be inactive for periods longer than 2 hours.
Combining regular physical activity with a healthy diet is the key to a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some tips for raising fit kids:
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2015
|Kids Sports Network This organization promotes quality nonschool sports and fitness for children between the ages of 3 and 19 through coaches, education, special events and activities, public awareness, and regular networking with youth sports organizations and agencies.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Council on Exercise (ACE) ACE promotes active, healthy lifestyles by setting certification and education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education about the importance of exercise.|
|SHAPE America SHAPE America is the largest organization of professionals involved in school-based health, physical education and physical activity, who are dedicated to teaching and promoting active, healthy lifestyles.|
|Let's Move! Let's Move! is dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.|
|How Can I Get My Kids to Be Active Outdoors? Kids parked on the couch watching TV or glued to a computer/smartphone/gaming system are missing out on the great outdoors. It's important for all kids to get outside - here are some ideas.|
|Playground Safety Following these safety guidelines can make neighborhood playgrounds entertaining and safe for your kids.|
|Why Exercise Is Cool Exercise can help keep a kid's body fit and healthy. Learn more about what exercise can do for you in this article for kids.|
|Kickboxing Are you looking for a total body workout that totally kicks butt? Read this article to find what you need to know before you take the kickboxing challenge.|
|How Can Families Be Healthier? Involving the whole family is the best way to promote healthful eating and activities for your kids.|
|It's Time to Play If you're a kid, playing is your job. But sometimes you need a few ideas to get you going. Find them here in this article.|
|Advice for Athletes From a Gold-Medal Coach Bob Bowman coaches Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. He shares his thoughts on improving sports performance in this article for teens.|
|What If I Don't Like Sports? Sports can be challenging when you're new to them, but they also can be really fun. Take a second look at sports - and learn other ways to be active - in this article for kids.|
|Motivating Preschoolers to Be Active A preschooler's desire to move, move, move makes this a great time to encourage fitness habits that can last a lifetime.|
|Motivating School-Age Kids to Be Active Being active is a key component of good health for all school-age kids. So how do you get kids motivated to be active, especially those who aren't gifted athletes?|
|Cold-Weather Sports Don't let the chill of winter turn you into a couch potato! Read this article to learn about some cool winter sports.|
|Cold-Weather Sports and Your Family Tired of being cooped up in the house because of the cold weather? Get out in the snow and try a new sport with your family this winter!|
|Weight Management: Strength Training Exercises (Video) These videos guide teens through basic strength training exercises. Anyone can do these exercises, and they work well as part of a weight-loss plan.|
|Easy Exercises for Teens Finding it hard to fit in fitness? Try these easy exercises for teens.|
|Home and Away: How to Keep Toddlers Active Toddlers naturally enjoy doing what is healthiest for them - being as active as possible. Here are tips to help keep them moving.|
|Motivating Kids to Be Active Parents can help instill a love of activity and help kids make it a part of their everyday routine.|
|Raising a Fit Preschooler Preschoolers have a lot of energy, and the physical skills and coordination to ride a tricycle or chase a butterfly.|
|Toddlers: Learning by Playing It might look like just child's play, but toddlers are hard at work learning important physical skills as they gain muscle control, balance, and coordination.|
|Strength Training and Your Child With a properly designed and supervised program, strength training can be a fun way for kids to build healthy muscles, joints, and bones.|
|Fitness for Kids Who Don't Like Sports Some kids aren't natural athletes and they may say they just don't like sports. What then?|
|5 Reasons Girls Should Play Sports Lots of girls love sports. Here are 5 more reasons to keep on loving them!|
|Be a Fit Kid A lot of people talk about fit kids, but how do you become one? Here are five rules to live by, if you want to eat right, be active, and maintain a healthy weight.|
|Why Exercise Is Wise Getting the right amount of exercise can rev up your energy levels and even help you to feel better emotionally. Find out why.|
|Choosing the Right Sport for You If you're having trouble choosing a sport, this article can help!|
|Strength Training Is working out with weights safe for teens? The best way to build muscle tone and definition is to combine aerobic and flexibility exercises with the right kind of strength training.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.