five kids riding bikes

By Lara Stewart

A child’s mind and body are constantly growing until they are at least seventeen years of age. After that, growth slows down a little bit. But before that, children are extremely adaptable. If you expose them to physical activity opportunities and encourage them to participate they can grow up to be healthy and fit.  

Physical exercise plays a crucial role in the lives of children of all ages.

Children need different kinds and levels of activity at the various stages of their lives. physical exercise does not have the same benefit for children of every age.

Exercise benefits include:

  • Strengthens heart, lungs and circulatory system
  • Weight Control
  • Strengthens Bones
  • Promotes emotional well-being
  • Helps prevent cancer

How much physical exercise do elementary school, middle school, and high school kids need to be healthy?

school age kids water fight

Elementary School Children

According to the CDC, elementary school children, ages of six to ten, should have at least sixty minutes of physical activity per day. This includes aerobic, bone and muscle strengthening activities. Vigorous-intensity physical activity should be included at least 3 days per week.

Aerobic Activities: bike riding, brisk walking, running, dancing, and playing active, games like tag, soccer, and basketball.

Bone Strengthening activities hopping, skipping, jumping, running, and sports like gymnastics, basketball, and tennis.

Muscle Strengthening activities: gymnastics, playing on a jungle gym, and climbing a tree

Some  additional activities to consider include dance class, sports clubs and leagues, and swimming.  Outdoor toys and bikes. For kids who are reluctant to get out there and be active consider offering them trending toys such as skateboards or the new popular electric scooters. the balance and core strength required to operate them strengthens bones and muscles. You can look up some of the best electric scooters here.

middle school kids

Middle School Children

Middle school kids should have one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity, three to four times a week. Pre-teens are better able to listen and follow instructions, many kids learn and hone skills needed to excel in team sports at this age.

They often enjoy activities like sports like dodgeball, volleyball, soccer, track, baseball, wrestling, and gymnastics. There are many different team sports available, check with your local Recreation Department to find  activities for even the most reluctant.

Be sure to encourage  a daily dose of warm-up, stretches, and gymnastics. If the child has a special knack for certain kinds of sports or if they enjoy taking part in physical activities, now can be the time to hone those skills.

Don’t let the cost of organized sports hold back your child, many leagues have scholarships and you can find used sports equipment for sale at reasonable prices. Little League is usually much less expensive than a traveling team and has the same physical activity benefits. Speak to the coach to find options for your child.

Here are some ideas for physical activities for middle school children from the CDC, ( Center for Disease Control)

Aerobic activities: bike riding, brisk walking, running, dancing, and playing active

Muscle-strengthening activities:  push-ups, pull-ups, and weightlifting exercises.

Bone-strengthening Activities:, jumping, running, and sports like gymnastics, basketball, and tennis.

Some activities may address more than one category at a time. For example, gymnastics is both muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening. Running is aerobic and bone-strengthening.

Activities should be age-appropriate, enjoyable, and offer variety.2

tweens and teens

High Schoolers

Physical activity is crucial for high school students as, they should also spend an hour or so doing light, moderate, or severe exercise around three to four times a week. Helping your teens learn to balance physical and mental health at the same time is a valuable life long lesson.

A large number of studies that state that teenagers who are physically active find it easier to learn academically as well. The  stereotype “Jock” or people who are sporty in high school have a hard time keeping their grades up is often not true.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following  physical activities for teenagers

  • Washing and waxing a car for 45 to 60 minutes
  • Washing windows or floors for 45 to 60 minutes
  • Playing volleyball for 45 minutes
  • Playing touch football for 30 to 45 minutes
  • Gardening for 30 to 45 minutes
  • Walking 13⁄4 miles in 35 minutes
  • Shooting baskets for 30 minutes
  • Bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes
  • Dancing fast for 30 minutes
  • Raking leaves for 30 minutes
  • Walking 2 miles in 30 minutes
  • Performing water aerobics for 30 minutes
  • Swimming laps for 20 minutes
  • Playing a game of basketball for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Bicycling 4 miles in 15 minutes
  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes
  • Running 11⁄2 miles in 15 minutes
  • Shoveling snow for 15 minutes
  • Stair climbing for 15 minutes

More Resources for Parents

Getting the Kids Moving — Real Advice for Real Life from the American Nanny

Tips for When Your Child has Diabetes

Teen Parenting: A Dozen Tips Keep Teenagers Safe and Healthy

Lara Stewart

Lara Stewart is a fitness expert and gym owner. She is obsessed with physical health as well as healthy eating. She has in-depth knowledge about the fitness needs of the body and how one can stay healthy on a budget.

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