HEALTHPLAN MAGAZINE

How Much Exercise Does A Child Need? Health Tips

Years ago, children spent much of their day playing in the streets, being physically active.

Sadly today, with the prevalence of technology, children tend to spend the majority of their day either watching television, playing video games or glued to their smartphones and tablets.

Unfortunately, in most cases, this will mean that our children aren’t getting the recommended amount of daily exercise they need to stay fit and healthy.

2019 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that worldwide, a sedentary lifestyle for the majority of children has become a major issue. 

Worryingly, the report concluded that over 80 percent of children between the ages of 11 and 17 were not being physically active enough.

The study also confirmed that the problem was not related to wealth or to any particular country, although the Asia-pacific region had the highest rates of inactivity at 89 percent for boys and 95 percent for girls.

Insufficient physical exercise is also a risk factor for a number of long-term health issues. These include obesity, diabetes, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.

Needless to say, this is a big concern for any parent. It is far easier to encourage a child at an early age to become more active and to eat healthily, than it is to have to treat obesity and its effects at a later stage in life.

Regular physical exercise will help to develop a child’s physical health including balance and muscle strength, while also improving heart and lung efficiency.

Physical activity also has a positive impact on our mental health leading to greater self-confidence and wellbeing. This can help to positively influence school performances and grades.

Below we offer some tips and information on the current recommended guidelines for physical activity in children.

How much exercise does a child need?

How much exercise your child needs will be dependent on their age.

School-Aged Children Between 5 and 18 years

For children and teenagers between 5 and 18 years, the following is recommended.

  • At least 60 minutes (1 hour) of moderate-intensity physical activity, each day across the week.
  • Take part in different forms of exercise throughout the week to develop muscles, strengthen bones and improve movement skills.
  • Minimise the time spent sitting down by breaking up long periods with physical activity. Spread activity throughout the day where possible.
  • Any activity should make you feel warmer and make you breathe faster.
  • Exercise should be aerobic, with three days of activities that strengthen bones such as running and jumping, and three days of activities that build muscles such as climbing.

What is classed as a moderate-intensity activity?

Moderate-intensity means any activity that increases your heart rate, making you feel warmer and breathe faster.

If you are working at a moderate intensity, you should be able to speak but not sing.

Some examples of moderate-intensity activities include:

  • Playground activities
  • Walking to school
  • Skateboarding
  • Riding a scooter
  • Cycling
  • Walking the dog

Preschool-Aged Children 3 to 5 years

The recommended levels for preschool-aged children between the ages of 3 and 5 years are:-

  • Those between 3 and 5 years should be physically active throughout the day for sufficient growth and development.
  • Preschool-aged children should be encouraged to be active when they play.

Include the three types of physical activity

Young children and adolescents should incorporate the following types of physical activity each week:

Aerobic Activity

The vast majority of your child’s daily 60 minutes of physical activity should be aerobic such as running, walking, swimming, cycling or any other activity that makes the heart beat faster. Aerobic activities should be carried out for at least three days per week.

Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

Muscle-strengthening exercises should also be encouraged and should be carried out for at least three days per week, as part of their 60 minutes of physical activity.

Muscle-strengthening exercises can, where age-appropriate, include the following activities: walking, skipping with a rope, running, climbing, football, tennis, dancing, basketball, martial arts, press-ups, sit-ups and gymnastics.

Bone-Strengthening Exercises

Bone-strengthening activities should also be included for three days a week as a part of your child’s 60 minutes of physical activity. These should include weight-bearing exercises such as running, jumping, dancing, walking, playing football or gymnastics.

Disclaimer: Any information contained within this article is for your guidance only and must not be used for the basis of any self-diagnosis. In all instances, you are advised to speak to your GP or healthcare professional immediately if you are concerned about your health or intend to embark on a new health program.