How Much Exercise Should Your Kids Get? Doctors Offer New Guidelines

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From sitting in a classroom all day to screen time after school, chances are most kids might not be spending as much time moving as they should. So how much exercise should kids get? Here’s what experts have to say about new guidelines.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, newly updated guidelines from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition recommend kids six years old and up need at least one hour of exercise per day. Meanwhile, kids ages three to five should have at least three hours of exercise daily.

Photo: joshdick75 via Pixabay

The new guidelines cover people of all ages—including pregnant women—but kids have their own section with specific recommendations. The report states that kids and adolescents aged six through 17 years should do “60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.” Exercise for kids in this age range can improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, cardiometabolic health and cognition, as well as reduce the risk of depression.

For kids three years and up, in addition to these same benefits, getting enough daily exercise can also improve bone health and maintain healthy weight. “Children younger than 6 years undergo periods of rapid growth and development. Physical activity can enhance growth and development and teach important movement skills,” the report notes.

While a set standard for physical activity hasn’t been determined for kids ages three to five, the guidelines suggest that kids at this age should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Parents should encourage kids to be active through play. The guidelines say “a reasonable target may be three hours per day of activity of all intensities: light, moderate or vigorous.”

For kids six to 17, the guidelines break down the types of physical activities that they should engage in during their daily 60 minutes of exercise:

  • Aerobic: Most of the 60 minutes or more per day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity on at least three days a week.
  • Muscle-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least three days a week.
  • Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least three days a week.

The guidelines state that establishing routine exercise early on not only helps kids develop life-long healthy habits, but it can lower the likelihood that kids will develop risk factors that lead to certain chronic illness and diseases as adults.

Bottom line? Get your kids movin’ and groovin’!

—Shahrzad Warkentin


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