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Exercise Recommendations for Children and Adolescents

By Brenna Thomas, ATC, VATL

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that children (age 6 and up) and adolescents should get a minimum of one hour of exercise per day. The CDC focuses on three main criteria for this recommendation:

  • Most of the 60 minutes of recommended exercise should be spent doing something aerobic. Aerobic exercise is moderate to vigorous activity. This can include playing tag, jumping rope, riding a bike or running the bases of a baseball field.
  • Muscle strengthening exercises should be done at least three days a week. The type of strengthening activities will depend on the child’s age. For the young child, this can be as simple as climbing on playground equipment. As children get older, they can begin body weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and squats. Teens can safely participate in weight lifting as long as they maintain a “low weight, high rep” rule – meaning they should be able to do multiple sets of 10 repetitions with a particular weight, rather than only a few repetitions with a weight that is too heavy.
  • Bone-strengthening exercise should be done at least three days a week. Bone strengthening occurs during both aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening as long as the child is bearing weight on a limb; for example, running, jumping, cartwheels, push-ups, or weight and resistance exercises.

Exercise should be fun and does not need to be a structured routine in the gym. It can be as simple as a game of tag in the backyard with friends, playing on a playground or shooting hoops in the driveway or park. Exercise can also be a way for families to spend time together – walking, hiking, biking or playing active games. Another way to ensure your children get a healthy variety of exercise is to enroll them in an organized sport. Not only will their exercise needs be met, children also benefit from learning about teamwork, sharing, respect and responsibility.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.