Physical Activity for Kids: How Much Is Needed?

By Western Berks Physical Therapy on February 15th, 2021

How Much Physical Activity Do Kids Need?

How Much Physical Activity Do Kids Need?

Recently we have seen a rise of diseases in children that, in the past, had only been seen in adults. Things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure are being diagnosed more at younger ages. One of the best ways to combat the rise of these diseases is to make sure that your kids are getting enough physical activity. But in a time when schools are closed, playground time is limited and social distancing is being encouraged or enforced, physical activity for our children is even more of a concern.

The Department of Health and Human Services has developed guidelines recommending that youth ages 6-17 participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity 7 days/week. This is total activity time, so 1 hour, two 30-minute sessions, or four 15-minute sessions each day would all satisfy this recommendation. Most of this activity should be at either moderate or vigorous intensity.

An easy way to distinguish vigorous vs. moderate intensity exercise is as follows:

  • Moderate intensity allows you to talk but not sing during or right after activity
  • Vigorous intensity allows you to say only a few words at a time

As part of the 60 minutes daily, it is recommended that children participate in muscle strengthening activities 3 days/week and bone strengthening activities 3 days/week. Here are some activities that would fit into these categories that can be done at home or in the back yard:

Muscle Strengthening Activities

  • Games like tug of war
  • Pushups, pull ups, or sit ups
  • Activities like crab walking, bear walking, or wheelbarrow with a partner

Bone Strengthening Activities

  • Hopscotch
  • Jumping rope
  • Skipping
  • Sports that include jumping like basketball
  • Dancing

Physical activity for kids should be fun and should incorporate playful activities that are age appropriate. A physical therapist can create a kid friendly exercise circuit consisting of muscle and bone strengthening activities. Then, when practicing the exercise circuit at home, add in music, dance and maybe some healthy competition. Parents and care-givers, remember to join in to make exercise fun for all!

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