Exercise and Children

Exercise is an important part of keeping children healthy. Encouraging healthy lifestyles in kids and teens is vital for when they grow older. Habits that are learned in childhood are more likely to stay with them into adulthood. Some changes in lifestyle can be hard to make the older a person gets. The best way to promote a healthy lifestyle is for the whole family to be involved.

Creating an exercise plan

Daily exercise is a fun way to share activity with family and friends. And it helps create good heart-healthy habits. The guidelines below can help you and your child plan activities:

  • Children ages 3 to 5. They should be physically active throughout the day. This can include being active when they play. They should move and be active in a variety of activities. Examples are bicycle or tricycle riding, throwing games, and hopping, skipping, and jumping. This helps growth and development.

  • Children ages 6 to 17. They should do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. This should include aerobic exercise. Examples are bicycling or jumping rope. They should do bone-strengthening activities. These include running or jumping. And they should do muscle-strengthening activities. Examples are climbing or resistance exercises. These all help to maintain good health and fitness. And it helps kids stay at a healthy weight as they grow.

Even doing low-to-medium intensity activities for as little as 30 minutes a day can be helpful. These activities include:

  • Walking

  • Climbing stairs

  • Dancing

  • Home exercise


Limit your child’s screen time. This includes cell phones, tablets, TV, video games, and computers. Replace these with activities that need more movement.

Aerobic activity

Regular aerobic activity increases a child’s ability for exercise. It can help prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes and help lower blood pressure. Aerobic means activities that raise the heart rate and breathing rate.

Make sure your child drinks fluids often during physical activity. This is to prevent too much water loss from the body (dehydration). Have them drink several glasses of water or other fluids with no added sugar after the physical activity is done.

Examples of aerobic activities include:

  • Brisk walking

  • Running

  • Swimming

  • Cycling

  • Rollerblading or roller skating

  • Jumping rope

  • Playing on the playground

  • Dancing

  • Gymnastics

  • Hiking

  • Soccer

  • Tag games

Benefits of regular physical activity

These are just some of the benefits of physical activity:

  • Improves blood flow throughout the body

  • 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

  • Increases muscle strength

When to talk to a healthcare provider

Exercising on a regular basis is part of a healthy lifestyle. But some children may exercise too much. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if:

  • Your child begins losing weight and falls below expected growth patterns

  • Exercise gets in the way of other normal activities, including school

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.