How Much Exercise Do Kids Need?
Exercise is a very important part of a growing child's development. Dr. Sandeepa Rajadhyaksha, a Cook Children's pediatrician, has tips on fun, easy and safe ways to get kids – and parents – moving from birth through the teen years.
Meet the speaker
Hi, I'm Dr. Raj with Cook Children's Pediatrics in Frisco. Today I'm going to talk to you about exercise and how much your child needs based on his or her age, and how to accomplish that safely.
So let's first talk about infants. Yes, even babies need physical activity. So for infants, their physical activity is mainly in the form of tummy time. So what we recommend is about 30 minutes of tummy time altogether during a day. So the way to accomplish this safely is, tummy time should only be done while the child is awake. And while being supervised.
Next, let's move on to toddlers and young children. They need about three hours of physical activity in a day, or put another way, for every hour, they're awake, they need about 15 minutes of physical activity, ways you can accomplish this would be things like running after a ball kicking a ball being at the playground, so really just active play time. And not only is this great physical activity, it's great for them to develop their, it's great for their developmental skills and to develop coordination. And also, it's great bonding time with your child.
Next, let's move on to elementary and middle school aged children. For these kids, we actually recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day. So what this means is we want them to expend a little energy, some effort with the heart rate going up sweating a little. So examples of activities may be organized sports, where they have one or two practices a week, and then they have a game. Again, playing outside like biking, running around active play. Something to keep in mind with this, this age group is that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend specializing in just one sport at this age, and that's to help prevent overuse injuries.
Finally, let's talk about our teenagers. So teenagers again, they need 3060 minutes of vigorous activity a day. So getting that heart rate up. Now ways they can get this in again, organized sports so great. Other activities like dance or athletics is fantastic. But the real problem with teenagers and even younger kids is what do you do if they're not interested in sports. What we suggest is working with them to find other activities that fulfill that criteria. Getting their heart rate up. Getting what we call like a sweat session in. So, with them, you want to talk to them and figure out other activities they can do to get their heart rate up and meet that criteria. So that might be things like playing outside biking, or as a family going on hikes, gardening, or indoor activities such as yoga, just dancing with the radio on or exercise classes, whatever it is work with them to find something that they'll enjoy, and they can continue.
So a couple of safety tips to keep in mind as we're getting their physical activity in. First, no matter what sport they're doing, make sure you're using the proper protective gear needed. So that may be helmets, mouth guards, eye protection, whatever that activity necessitates.
The second thing is teach your children to listen to their bodies. So if they're having extreme pain, if there's a change in the color of their urine, they seem dizzy or shortness of breath, or whatever it may be, that seems out of the norm. Stop that activity and make sure you talk to your child's pediatrician to make sure it's safe to continue.
So finally, just a last couple of words. Exercise. We know it's important for your heart, it's important for your bones. But, most importantly, is it's important for your overall wellbeing.
So we've talked about how it's great for developmental and coordination skills. It can help with socialization skills with peers and family. Exercise leads to better sleep and who can use that. And finally, exercise is very important for emotional wellbeing. Exercise is known to reduce stress and anxiety and depression. So, no matter what the activity you choose, put your phones down, get off the couch and let's get moving.