Kids and Exercise: How Much Should They Get?

Play 60

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings” – Ann Landers

It seems like every day there is a news story on how childhood obesity is on the rise.  There has even been a spike in childhood diabetes.  So obviously a big part of fighting this is diet.  As a country we (kids included) eat too much sugar and too big of portions.  But what about exercise?  How much do they need?  How much is too much?   My kids have often asked me if they can run with me (not at 4:30 in the morning, but in the evening!)  So recently this prompted a conversation about kids and exercise when I was at the pediatrician.  I thought the advice was great so I thought I would share it.

In 2007 the NFL launched a campaign called “Play 60”, which encouraged kids to be active for 60 minutes a day.  Today that is still a great guideline and in fact it lines right up with the AHA (American Heart Association) guidelines which also recommends 60 total minutes a day of moderate, age-appropriate activity for children.  (This can be 30 minutes twice a day, whatever you can fit in as long as it totals 60.) This is important to remember since we live in a world where kids are very into video games.  These are the same ideas that were suggested to me by my pediatrician.

One of the reasons why I enjoy having my kids in sports such as soccer and basketball is definitely because of the pure fun and competition of sports, but also because it is guaranteed physical activity at least a couple of times each week.  I am ok with some TV time as well as some video game time, as long as there is plenty of play and active time as well. As parents we of course have to set the right examples of physical activity.

There are plenty of other ways to get kids active other than organized sporting leagues.  For example in our neighborhood we often play games of soccer or kickball in the empty lot across the street. Good and friendly competition is something children like, it is motivating for them.  Kids are typically much more apt to be active or exercise (with or without a parent) if their friends play too.   Even a good old fashioned game of tag or hide and go seek outside are great ways to get kids active.  Taking the dog on a walk is another activity that can be made fun for kids.  Changing it up and making it fun is key to keeping kids interested, and keeping them off the couch.

Here are a few useful websites with more detailed information:

Play Ball

The benefits of exercise for kids are for the most part the same as adults.  It improves mood and self- esteem, helps them sleep better, promotes heart health, fights obesity, improves coordination, and has many other benefits as well. Like adults, kids want to feel good when they are active.  Be sure they have shoes that fit properly and have the right support.  Overall keeping kids active and making activity fun shouldn’t be hard, it should be a habit.  Making fitness fun as a family is truly beneficial for everyone!


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