How Much Exercise is Healthy for Kids?
By: Sarah (Luin) Beaulieu, DPT
Is your child active enough?
With school back in session, we are all trying to establish good routines and healthy habits. It’s important for people of all ages to move our bodies for proper health, but is your child getting enough activity?
How much exercise should the average kid get?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
Babies need at least 30 minutes of “tummy time” and other interactive play spread throughout each day.
Kids aged 3-5 need at least 3 hours of physical activity per day. This breaks down to about 15 minutes for every hour they are awake.
Kids 6 years and older need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week. That means that your child needs to break a sweat.
Although school aged children get recess and PE most days of the week, they also need physical ac
tivity outside of the school. Austin offers several unique athletic activities that you may have never thought of.
Whether your child prefers traditional sports/athletic activities or is interested in trying something new, they will enjoy it even more as a family or let them bring a friend along.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
How do I get my kids active indoors?
These are perfect for rainy days (or if we’re being realistic… super hot days)
Mixed martial arts
Organized sports (basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer)
Aerial acrobatics classes
Outdoor activities for kids
Hike one of the numerous trails on the greenbelt
Explore Lady Bird Lake on a bike
7 on 7 Flag Football
Water-based activities for kids
How many kids do not get enough exercise?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 25% of child are getting enough activity. That means a whopping 75% of children are not getting enough exercise! Most parents are equally as inactive, as we have all become more sedentary and spend more time on screens for school and work.
Why are kids becoming less active?
Children don’t have as many opportunities to be active and/or choose screen time over physical activity during the school day. This makes it even more important for kids to get exercise outside of school and to learn to choose to be active.
What are the symptoms of lack of exercise?
Have you noticed your child falling behind when you walk long distances, like at the grocery store or running errands? Do they complain about having to walk or stand for more than 30 minutes at a time? Does your child sit with slumped posture most of the time? Are they breathless after climbing a few flights of stairs?
These could be signs that your child is not getting enough exercise. Being more active will improve your child’s health, build stronger bones and muscles, decrease stress and allow them to sleep better. Additionally, being more active increases overall flexibility, confidence in their bodies and decreases risk for injuries.
Physical activity outside allows for even more health benefits like Vitamin D absorption and improved emotional health. Plus, kids are more likely to get their heart rate up when they spend more time outside.
How can I encourage my child to do physical activity?
Start your new activity goals slowly by setting a goal of 3 days of activity (outside of school) for your child and your family. Most people find more free time on the weekends, so that means only 1 weekday to find time for activity. Get your child involved and excited in this new adventure – maybe they can help pick an activity from the list above!
Then put your plan into action, perhaps by creating a routine with the weekday activity and shaking it up to do something different each weekend. Do whatever you find easiest to remain consistent. This could be a simple as Thursday night bike rides or Sunday afternoon greenbelt hikes. Making an activity a weekly tradition will help incorporate a new healthy habit that the whole family looks forward to.
Once that becomes easily achieved, try to increase the number of days or the length of time, ideally working up to an hour of activity most days of the week.
Tips to create a physical fitness plan for my family
Decide on a few activities per week to become family traditions
Schedule time for physical activity on the family calendar
Get your child involved in choosing the activity or take turns between siblings
Set rewards once goals are achieved for encouragement and motivation
You’ll quickly notice your child becoming stronger, happier and more active!
About Sarah (Luin) Beaulieu, DPT
Sarah is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a BSPTS Schroth Certified Practitioner (C1) here at Central Texas Pediatric Orthopedics.
Sarah attended Austin College, followed by the University of Texas at El Paso.
Sarah is Postural Restoration Institute Certified and is currently developing CTPO's Scoliosis Program utilizing the Schroth method. She resides in Austin and loves staying active around the city as well as spending time with family and friends.
Click here to learn more about Sarah.