Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Exercise and activity - children


Children should have many chances to play, run, bike, and play sports during the day. They should get 60 minutes of moderate activity every day.

Moderate activity makes your breathing and heartbeat speed up. Some examples are:

  • Walking fast
  • Playing chase or tag
  • Playing basketball and most other organized sports (such as soccer, swimming, and dancing)

Younger children cannot stick with the same activity as long as an older child. They may be active for only 10 to 15 minutes at a time. The goal is still to get 60 minutes of total activity every day.

Why Exercise?

Children who exercise:

  • Feel better about themselves
  • Are more physically fit
  • Have more energy

Other benefits of exercise for children are:

  • A lower risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Healthy bone and muscle growth
  • Staying at a healthy weight

Getting Started

Some kids enjoy being outside and active. Others would rather stay inside and play video games or watch TV. If your child does not like sports or physical activity, look for ways to motivate him. These ideas may help children become more active.

  • Let children know that being active will give them more energy, make their bodies stronger, and make them feel better about themselves.
  • Give encouragement for physical activity and help children believe they can do it.
  • Be their role model. Start being more active if you are not already active yourself.
  • Make walking a part of your family's daily routine. Get good walking shoes and rain jackets for the wet days. DO NOT let rain stop you.
  • Go for walks together after dinner, before turning on the TV or playing computer games.
  • Take your family to community centers or parks where there are playgrounds, ball fields, basketball courts, and walking paths. It is easier to be active when people around you are active.
  • Encourage indoor activities such as dancing to your child's favorite music.

Find a Good Match

Organized sports and daily activities are good ways for your child to get exercise. You will have better success if you select activities that fit your child's preferences and abilities.

  • Individual activities include swimming, running, skiing, or biking.
  • Group sports are another option, such as soccer, football, basketball, karate, or tennis.
  • Choose an exercise that works well for your child's age. A 6-year-old may play outside with other kids, while a 16-year-old may prefer to run at a track.

Daily activities can use as much, or more, energy than some organized sports. Some everyday things your child can do to be active include:

  • Walk or bike to school.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Ride a bike with family or friends.
  • Take the dog for a walk.
  • Play outside. Shoot a basketball or kick and throw a ball around, for instance.
  • Play in the water, at a local pool, in a water sprinkler, or splashing in puddles.
  • Dance to music.
  • Skate, ice-skate, skate-board, or roller-skate.
  • Do household chores. Sweep, mop, vacuum, or load the dishwasher.
  • Take a family walk or hike.
  • Play computer games that involve moving your whole body.
  • Rake leaves and jump in the piles before bagging them up.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Weed the garden.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). School health guidelines to promote healthy eating and physical activity. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2011; 6;60(RR-5):1-76. PMID: 21918496

Gahagan S. Overweight and obesity. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 47.

Review Date:5/7/2017
Reviewed By:Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?