Children as young as preschool age benefit from exercise and fitness as
much as adults do. Experts
recommend that teens and children (starting at age 6) do moderate to vigorous
activity at least 1 hour every day.footnote 1 And 3 or more
days a week, what they choose to do should:
It's okay for them to be active in smaller blocks of time that
add up to 1 hour or more each day.
It's important for children and teens to take part in all three types of
fitness: flexibility, aerobic fitness, and muscle strengthening.
Show your children how to stretch
their muscles. Let them do stretching exercises along with you. Gently
correct their form when needed so that they learn good habits and understand
that there is a way to do stretches that makes them most effective.
Children often get
aerobic activity without realizing it. Playing tag, having a squirt-gun fight,
or playing catch with friends all provide aerobic exercise. Going for hikes and
walking to the store also provide aerobic activity. Many schools and
communities have programs for soccer, T-ball, and other activities. These are
great ways for your children to get aerobic exercise and meet new
Bicycling, swimming, climbing, and helping in the yard or garden are just a few
examples of activities that strengthen muscles.
Many children show an interest
in weights. When properly supervised, weight training for children is safe
and can be helpful in preparing them for sports and starting good lifetime
fitness habits. Talk to your child's doctor before your child starts a
weight-training program.footnote 2 This type of exercise is
not right for every child.
When children work with weights:
For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.
If your child is involved in organized sports:
Teens sometimes need encouragement to get active. You can help motivate your teen by setting an example.
If regular exercise is a normal part of family life, teens may see it as
natural to start or keep exercising. Household chores count as physical
activity too. Talk with your teen about the physical
benefits of exercise, such as improved mood or energy level.
Although competitive sports are a great way for teens to be physically
active while they learn valuable social skills, be aware that sports are not
Help your teen avoid competition that stresses winning
over everything else, including sportsmanship and schoolwork.
require repeated movements or require that bones repeatedly bear weight.
Overuse injuries occur from stressing the joints, muscles, or other tissues and
not letting them recover.
The growing bones of young athletes may not be able
to handle as much stress as the mature bones of adults. Repeated stress on the
body may lead to irritation,
stress fractures, or other conditions. For example, a
swimmer may get a
rotator cuff injury because he or she doesn't realize
that fatigue or poor performance is a sign of overuse.
take part in endurance events, year-round sports, or weekend tournaments, and
teens who diet to stay at a certain weight for a sport (such as gymnastics or
wrestling) are also at risk for injuries. The American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting one sport to no more than 5 days a week,
with at least 1 day off each week from any organized physical activity. Also,
the AAP suggests that athletes have at least 2 to 3 months off each year from
their particular sport.footnote 3
Anyone who does
too much activity without the right conditioning is at risk for injury. Be sure young athletes get enough rest and nutrition.
Some teens think protein powders or shakes are a nutritious snack that can help build muscle. They may cause harm and cost a lot. If your teen wants to try one, talk to his or her doctor first.
CitationsU.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (2008, reaffirmed 2011). Strength training by children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 121(4): 835-840.Brenner JS, Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (2007, reaffirmed 2011). Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics, 119(6): 1242-1245.Other Works ConsultedAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (2008). Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (2008, reaffirmed 2011). Strength training by children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 121(4): 835-840.Brenner JS, Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (2007, reaffirmed 2011). Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics, 119(6): 1242-1245.Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, Council on School Health (2006, reaffirmed 2009). Active healthy living: Prevention of childhood obesity through increased physical activity. Pediatrics, 117(5): 1834-1842.Murphy NA, et al. (2008, reaffirmed 2012). American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report: Promoting the participation of children with disabilities in sports, recreation, and physical activities. Pediatrics, 121(5): 1057-1061.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofMarch 13, 2017
Current as of:
March 13, 2017
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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Last modified on: 8 September 2017