Is your child getting enough physical activity?

A previous blog explored how much exercise adults should aim for each week, but what about kids? Some parents may wonder how much activity their children should accrue each week. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have the following guidelines related to the physical activity levels of children and adolescents (6-17 years of age).

The Physical Activity Guidelines recommend children aged 6-17 years of age engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity each day. This includes activities which encourage bone loading and resistance activities at least 3 days per week. Moderate intensity involves a moderate increase in breathing and heart rate. Vigorous intensity can be gauged by a significant increase in heart rate and breathing rate. Physical activity doesn’t have to be structured, for example, majority of the accrued activity may come from playing in a playground where they are required to climb, jump or run. Other activity may be structured, for example, engaging in regular sports such as soccer, tee-ball, gymnastics, swimming, basketball or tennis.

For adolescents, resistance training can be safe providing they receive correct instruction and adequate supervision. In this case, the general adult guidelines apply (8-15 repetitions to the point of moderate fatigue with good exercise form).

Children and adolescents who are overweight or physically inactive may find it difficult to meet the recommended 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity. In such cases, start with moderate intensity activity for as long as tolerated and gradually increase to achieve the goal of 60 minutes per day. Vigorous intensity activity can then be added 3 days per week.

Some precautions to keep in mind:

  • Prepubescent children have skeletons which haven’t yet matured and so should avoid excessive amounts of vigorous intensity exercise.
  • Children have underdeveloped systems to adequately address heat regulation and so exercise should be avoided in overly hot and humid conditions. Ensure proper hydration, especially on hot summer days.
  • Children and adolescents with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, obesity, cerebral palsy or cystic fibrosis should have a tailored exercise program which takes into consideration their condition, symptoms and fitness level.

Promotion of daily physical activity and subsequent healthy lifestyle behaviours is key with children and adolescents. However, just as important is actively reducing sedentary behaviours such as excessively watching television, playing video games and internet surfing on computers/smart devices. A good way to engage children is to incorporate the element of fun into family walks, bike rides, going to the local pool, heading to a local park or oval to practice sport or just for fun. Whichever way your child chooses to engage in physical activity, some is always better than none at all!



Bianca Dobrich |B.Sc. Human Movement, Grad Dip. Exercise Rehabilitation

Exercise Consultant – Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (ESSAM)

P 9244 5580 – F 92445582



Pescatello, L. S. & American College of Sports Medicine. (2014). ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (14th Ed.) Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.