Top of the page
Physical activity is key to lifelong health and well-being. Children as young as preschool age benefit from exercise and fitness as much as adults do. Being active helps children and teens to:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
It's important for children and teens to take part in all three types of activity:
This kind of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and builds endurance. Children often get aerobic activity without realizing it. Playing tag, dancing, swimming, and playing catch with friends all provide aerobic exercise. Many schools and communities have programs for soccer, T-ball, and other activities. These are great ways for your child to get aerobic exercise and meet new friends.
Playing on playground equipment, rope or tree climbing, and gymnastics are just a few examples of activities that tone and strengthen muscles. Certain types of weight training, when properly supervised, may be good choices for older children.
Anything that uses the body to work against gravity, like running, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, and playing basketball, are activities that help with bone growth and strength. Many bone-strengthening activities are also aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises.
Stretching can also be an important part of your child's activity. It can help increase your child's flexibility. Stretching allows your child to move their muscles and joints through a full range of motion. Show your child how to stretch the muscles. Let your child do simple stretching exercises along with you. Gently correct your child's form when needed so that your child learns good habits.
Many children show an interest in weights. When properly supervised, some types of weight training for older children are safe and can help prepare them for sports and starting good lifetime fitness habits.
Use these tips when your child works with weights.
This type of exercise is not right for every child.
If children don't use proper form, they can hurt themselves. Your child also probably won't get the full benefit of exercising with weights if your child's form is wrong.
This can cause your child to push beyond what is safe.
The size of the weight is not important. Your child will get stronger from weight training by doing the right number of repetitions and sets.
One of the very best things you can do for your child's health is to help make physical activity a habit—something that will be a natural part of your child's daily life through adulthood. Here are some things you can do to help your child be active and healthy.
It's important for children to have fun, so don't force them to exercise. Instead, find activities that they like to do and will do without being asked.
One way to increase your child's activity is to do it in shorter periods of time throughout the day so that it adds up to 1 hour. Encourage your child to do things like running, jumping rope, or playing soccer.
Hike or bike, wash the car, or walk around a mall. Do an online exercise video together. Offer choices, and let your child play.
Walk with your child to do errands, or walk to the bus stop or school, if you can.
This can be a weekly planned physical activity, such as a bike ride, a water balloon toss, or building a snow fort in the yard.
Include group activities like touch football, basketball, or hide-and-seek.
See what your child enjoys, such as basketball, dance, soccer, or martial arts. Praise your child for doing exercise that they enjoy.
Discuss ways they can encourage your child to be physically active throughout the day.
Organized sports can be a great way to help your child stay active. Here are some tips for involving your child in organized sports.
The injuries may be different for children than for adults. Help your child prevent sports injuries. If you have concerns, talk to your child's doctor.
Make sure that the coach knows about training safely and how to be safe in hot or cold weather.
You and your child should be comfortable with the coach's style and the coach's skills.
Competitive sports are a great way for teens to be active while they learn valuable social skills.
Here are tips to help your teen find the right sport.
It could be competitive or non-competitive sports. Or your teen may choose personal fitness activities such as jogging, yoga, or cycling. Some teens may prefer individual sports like karate, gymnastics, and swimming rather than group sports like soccer and baseball.
Any repeated movement or impact can cause an overuse injury. These injuries can cause pain or soreness, inflammation, and even stress fracture of a bone. After an overuse injury has started, it can take weeks to heal. Children and teens are most at risk when their bones are still growing.
Common overuse injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist, rotator cuff injury of the shoulder, tennis elbow, Osgood-Schlatter disease of the knee, and plantar fasciitis of the foot.
The following can help your child avoid these injuries.
Pain and tiredness are the body's way of saying "slow down, recover, and heal." Sore muscles are common after a new activity. But pain can be a sign of injury.
The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that children take part in a variety of activities and avoid early specialization. footnote 1And if your child tries different sports, then he or she will learn lifelong fitness skills and have fun trying new activities.
CitationsCanadian Paediatric Society (2005). Sport readiness in children and youth. Paediatrics and Child Health, 10(6): 343–344. Also available online: http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/sport-readiness.
Current as of: October 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: October 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.