Reviewed 10/23/2019

How much activity do kids need?

Kids need physical activity to grow up strong and healthy. More immediate perks: It can help them feel happier, sleep well and do better in school.

How much is enough?

See how much activity kids need from babyhood through their teens—and get helpful exercise tips too.

Activity amounts for babies

BABIES: Tummy time

Exercise for babies? Yep! It’s tummy time—and it’s important to an infant’s development.

For safety’s sake, babies should always sleep on their backs. But while they’re awake, parents should make sure babies have some supervised time each day on their bellies.

Babies gain strength and flexibility during tummy time by moving their arms and legs and holding up their heads.

Tummy time tips!

  • The earlier you start, the more likely your baby will accept the tummy as a natural position.
  • For newborns, you can help get them used to tummy time by reclining and holding them on your stomach or chest.
  • Start with short sessions, 3 to 5 minutes, a couple or a few times each day.
  • Increase the time as your baby grows and gets used to tummy time.
  • Give it a try after a diaper change or nap.
  • Always stay with your baby during tummy time. It’s a great opportunity to engage and play.

Activity amounts for toddlers (1 and 2 years)

Experts recommend plenty of active play for toddlers. Make it a mix of adult-led activities and free play.

Get tips and ideas

Play together and encourage active play

  • Practice kicking a ball and jumping.
  • Have races down a clear hallway.
  • Leave the stroller at home and let kids walk.
  • Provide active toys, such as balls, push-and-pull toys and toys to ride on.
  • Play follow the leader or ring around the rosy.
  • Put on music and dance together.
  • Limit screen time.

Activity amounts for preschoolers (3 to 5 years)

Try to keep preschoolers playing and moving throughout the day. Aim for at least 3 hours of movement a day.

Get tips and ideas!

Indoor tips and ideas:

  • Have family dance parties.
  • Do mini fitness challenges like jumping jacks or jumping over blocks.
  • Sign kids up for active classes, such as tumbling or dance.
  • Have kids help you with chores like vacuuming, dusting or washing the car.
  • Limit screen time.

Outdoor tips and ideas:

  • Encourage active games, like tag and hide-and-seek.
  • Play catch or soccer.
  • Walk to a park with a playground.
  • Provide outdoor toys like balls, jump ropes, trikes and bikes.

Activity amounts for kids and teens (6 to 17 years)

Kids in this age group need at least 60 minutes of activity a day. Most of it should be moderate aerobic activity (if you’re breathing hard but can still carry on a conversation, it’s a moderate-intensity aerobic activity.)—with some more vigorous activity (it’s a vigorous aerobic activity if you can only say a few words before you have to take a breath). Kids also need activities that strengthen their muscles (climbing monkey bars, playing tug-of-war, etc.) and bones (jumping rope, running, basketball, etc.).

An important pointer for parents: Stay positive! Encouraging activity doesn’t mean being heavy-handed or shaming children about their bodies, abilities or effort. Be a good role model and emphasize the upsides of being active—like fun, friends, energy and a strong body.

Get tips and ideas!

Family fun tips and ideas:

Be active as a family

  • Plan bike rides.
  • Go swimming at a community pool.
  • Look for nearby hiking trails.
  • Play games in the yard or park.
  • Set a timer and clean house together.
  • Have a dance contest or build an obstacle course.
  • Arrange active outings with other families.
  • Limit screen time.

Sports and other activities tips and ideas:

Encourage activity outside the home

  • Sign kids up for sports teams, clubs, camps and classes.
  • Encourage kids to keep trying new activities to find things they enjoy.
  • If team sports don’t appeal to kids, consider alternatives like running, swimming, hiking, rowing, dance, yoga, martial arts, tennis, cycling and rock climbing.
  • Provide outdoor equipment and safety gear, like bikes and helmets.

Let’s take a walk!

Enjoy the many benefits of family walks.

Seven great perks

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; American Council on Exercise; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Zero to Three

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Disclaimer

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.