How Much Exercise Should a Child Do

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According to research, more than 14% of 4-year-old children are obese, and the number increases to more than 25% by the time they’re 10 or 11 years old. Unfortunately, the consequences of obesity can affect a child’s physical and emotional health drastically and long into adulthood.

If you’re a parent and you’re worried about your child’s health, you probably know that a well-balanced diet and an adequate amount of exercise are essential to keep your little one in good shape. But how much exercise should a child do? Keep on reading to find the answer. 

How Much Exercise Should a Child Do?

Physical activity, especially in toddlers and younger children, doesn’t only help them stay in shape, but they’re also essential for the development of the bones and muscles and improving the capacity of the lungs and brain. As a matter of fact, some types of exercise can relieve some health issues like asthma. 

Being physically active offers your little one a lot of benefits. However, it’s important to determine the amount of exercise that your child should do as a minimum. Humans are not made to be idle.

Here’s a guide to the adequate amount and intensity of exercise that your little one can do according to age. 

Ages 0-1

baby exercise

It’s essential for your baby to stay active throughout the day. And although your baby can’t walk, you can encourage it to move by playing, grasping objects, and crawling. It’s important to get at least 30 minutes per day of physical activity without straining the muscles or tendons.

Sensory play is a type of physical activity if they are engaged. We have written guides on how work a baby’s core and leg muscles.

There are several ideas to keep your baby moving, even if it’s not walking. You can lay it on its back and allow it to kick its legs, or you can keep it on its tummy. Tummy time encourages the development of the muscles but should only be done when you’re able to supervise your child.

Once they crawl and walk it’s much easier to get to 30 minutes and beyond.

Ages 1-3

As your child gets older, it will stay awake for more time. This is why it’s important to get at least 3 hours of physical activity spread throughout the day. 

At this age, your child will start standing up and holding onto objects. You can encourage walking, playing, and rolling on the ground. 

As your toddler is able to move better, physical activity will involve running, hopping, chasing a ball, playing with a pet, riding a balance bike, playing with a rocking horse, or climbing a climbing frame. Whether your little one is playing inside or outside, it’s important to keep an eye on your child to avoid any accidents. 

Ages 3-5

toddler walking

Between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, the time and intensity of exercise differ. It’s recommended that your child stays active all the time they’re awake, with a minimum of at least 3 hours of physical activity

Of these 3 hours, there should be one hour of moderate to vigorous activity to help strengthen your child’s muscles and skeleton. Spending too much time watching TV, playing on a tablet, or strapped to a buggy is actually bad for your little one’s overall health. 

During this period, children are more prone to putting on weight due to bad eating habits. So, it’s important to pay attention to your child’s diet while ensuring that he or she is moving enough. This is also the age at which your child is likely to go to school. 

There are several activities that your child can do alone, with another child, or with an adult to keep moving. These include walking, running, jumping, hopping, messy play, skipping, dancing, playground activities, riding a bike, and throwing and catching. 

Ages 5-13

Once your child is 5 years old, he or she can take part in several types of physical activities to strengthen their muscles and bones and keep their weight under control. Aerobic exercises like running and jumping are essential to keep your child active, while practising several sports will improve your little one’s range of motion. 

Your child needs at least 1 hour of moderate activity that increases the heartbeat and body temperature. This includes walking or cycling to school, walking the dog, dancing, skipping, playing football or basketball, skateboarding, rollerblading, playing tennis, or attending a class of physical education. 

In addition to these exercises, there are other workout routines and sports that strengthen the muscles and the bones for a healthier body. These include football, martial arts, swimming, gymnastics, set-ups, and push-ups. 

Ages 13+

teenager playing football

During your child’s teen years, it’s highly recommended to remain active for at least one hour per day. Aerobic activities that continue for longer periods and target the bigger muscle groups are recommended because they keep your child fit and healthy. These include walking, running, dancing, and swimming. 

Weight training and fitness routines that aim at strengthening the muscles and the bones should be done about three times per week. Moderate or intensive exercises should last for about 60 minutes. 

Weight training doesn’t mean hitting the iron down at the gym but using monkey bars, playing football and so on.

During this period, it’s also essential to keep an eye on your child’s diet. Children are more likely to spend time away from home, eating junk food and eating high-calorie meals, and as puberty hits, weight gain can be rapid unless put under control. 

What Dangers are There When a Child Doesn’t Exercise Enough?

Getting your children to leave the sofa and head outside or get moving inside the house can be challenging. Nevertheless, it’s essential because the consequences of not getting enough exercise can affect your little one for life. 

  • Just like adults, children can suffer from stress and mood swings when they don’t exercise enough. Working out channels the energy they have, allowing them to release any frustration in a healthy way. Engaging in group activities also helps build healthy relationships and teaches children about the importance of teamwork and cooperation. 
  • Overweight children who don’t exercise enough are more likely to suffer from several diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, joint problems, and diabetes later on in life.
  • Exercise is also related to improved cognitive functions, so your child’s academic performance might deteriorate if they’re not exercising enough. The mind and the body are connected.
  • Overweight children can be subject to bullying. They might also be left out in group activities that require moving around. In some cases, they might choose to distance themselves. Nobody condones bullying but children can and will be cruel for ‘easy targets’.

Tips on Getting an Overweight Child Active

Although it might be difficult to tell that your child is overweight, your doctor will help you identify the problem. If your child is particularly heavy, you need to step in and encourage him or her to get more active. Here are a few tips to follow. 

  • Be a good role model yourself. Encourage your child to work out with you if they’re reluctant or shy. If you yourself are obese with bad habits then you have little authority on commenting on them.
  • Make sure that the whole family is following a healthier lifestyle that involves less screen time, more walking and engaging in outdoor activities, and eating healthy meals. 
  • Encourage your child to take part in short activities if they lack the motivation or strength in the beginning. With time, your little one will build enough endurance to last for an hour of workout. 
  • Keep mealtime organized by setting the time for every meal and offering suitable child-size portions. 
  • Set a sleep schedule and try to engage the whole family. 

Importance of Diet

Working out every day might not yield the required results if your child isn’t eating healthy. This is why you need to establish healthy eating habits at home to help your child stay fit. 

The whole family should follow a healthy lifestyle to encourage their child to ditch high-calorie food. Meals should be planned and thought of, so your child can eat all the essential nutrients. 

It’s also critical to offer healthy and delicious snacks that your child will eventually prefer over candy and fast food. Here are some tips to follow. 

  • Avoid forcing or restricting a special kind of food and offer everything in moderation. 
  • Limit the amount of meat and dairy products and offer more cereals, vegetables, and fruits. 
  • Offer fresh vegetables or fruits as snacks instead of processed food. 
  • Make sure that your child is drinking enough water. 
  • Offer a tasty treat like a cupcake once or twice a week. 


The amount of exercise that your child needs differs as they get older. It’s important to keep an eye on your little one’s physical activity since birth and encourage exercising to stay in perfect shape.