Physical Activity Guide for Children and Youth to Keep Healthy

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 12:54 pm

How much physical activity do children and young people aged 5-18 need to do to keep healthy?

Keeping Our Bodies Fit.To stay healthy or to improve health, young people need to do three types of physical activity each week: aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity.

The amount of physical activity you need to do each week is determined by your age. Click on the links below for the recommendations for other age groups:

Physical Activity for Young People Aged 5-18

To maintain a basic level of health, children and young people aged 5-18 need to do:

At least 60 minutes (1 hour) of physical activity every day, which should range between moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling and playground activities and vigorous-intensity activity, such as fast running and tennis.

On three days a week, these activities should involve muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups, and bone-strengthening activities, such as running.

Many vigorous-intensity activities can help you meet your weekly muscle- and bone-strengthening requirements, such as running, skipping, gymnastics, martial arts and football.

What Counts as Moderate-Intensity Activity?

Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most young people include:

  • Walking to school
  • Playing in the playground
  • Riding a scooter
  • Skateboarding
  • Rollerblading
  • Walking the dog
  • Cycling on level ground or ground with few hills

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can’t sing the words to a song.

What Counts as Vigorous-Intensity Activity?

Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most young people include:

  • Playing chase
  • Energetic dancing
  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Gymnastics
  • Football/soccer
  • Rugby
  • Martial arts, such as karate
  • Cycling fast or on hilly terrain

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

What Counts as Muscle-Strengthening Activity?

For young people, muscle-strengthening activities are those that require them to lift their own body weight or to work against a resistance, such as climbing a rope.

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities suitable for children include:

  • Games such as tug of war
  • Swinging on playground equipment bars
  • Gymnastics
  • Rope or tree climbing
  • Sit-ups, press ups etc.
  • Gymnastics
  • Football/soccer
  • Rugby
  • Tennis

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities suitable for young people include:

  • Sit-ups, press ups etc.
  • Gymnastics
  • Resistance exercises with exercise bands, weight machines or hand-held weights
  • Rock climbing
  • Football/soccer
  • Basketball
  • Tennis

Children and young people should take part in activities that are appropriate for their age and stage of development.

What Counts as Bone-Strengthening Activity?

Bone-strengthening activities produce an impact or tension force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength.

Examples of bone-strengthening activities suitable for children include:

  • Activities that require children to lift their body weight or to work against a resistance
  • Jumping and climbing activities, combined with the use of playground equipment and toys
  • Games such as hopscotch
  • Skipping with a rope
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Gymnastics
  • Football/soccer
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Squash
  • Martial arts

Examples of bone-strengthening activities suitable for young people include:

  • Dance
  • Aerobics
  • Weight-training
  • Water-based activities
  • Running
  • Sports such as gymnastics, football/soccer, netball, hockey, badminton and tennis
  • Skipping with a rope
  • Martial arts

Children and young people should take part in activities that are appropriate for their age and stage of development.

About the Author

NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.

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