700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Keeping Kids Active and Healthy - Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Sep 25, 2019
Family of four running with their dog on the sidewalk

Physical activity is a key component to keeping children and adolescents healthy. As we know, the benefits of physical activity are plentiful. Physical activity can help to improve our endurance, strengthen our muscles and bones, increase our flexibility, improve our quality of sleep, and decrease the risk of developing many different health conditions including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

Daily physical activity for children is especially important with their transition back to school in the fall. We know physical activity can help improve self-esteem and mood, reduce symptoms of anxiety, decrease stress and even help to improve overall school performance!

How Much and What Type of Physical Activity Is Best for My Child?

It is important to include a wide variety of activities into children’s routines that are both age appropriate and FUN.  The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that infants (0-12 months) engage in activities that are safe, supervised, interactive and floor-based. Toddlers and pre-schoolers (2-5 years old) should spend at least 3 hours spread throughout the day in a variety of physical activities including energetic play.  

Children and adolescents (6-17 years old) should get 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.  Most activity should be aerobic in nature (like biking or running), though children should also include strengthening and weight bearing exercises (like jumping jacks and pushups) at least three times per week. Stretching or yoga can also help prevent injury or assist with muscle recovery after exercise.

Making Exercise a Fun Family Activity While Fitting It into a Busy Day.

There is power in numbers! It has been found that children are more interested in engaging in physical activity or exercise when a parent, caregiver, sibling or friend joins in. Doing a physical activity/playing together can be a great time for parents to talk to their children about their day and can help adults de-stress from a busy day at work. Planning ahead and scheduling times to be active can be beneficial.

Incorporating smaller bouts of physical activity during the day when schedules are busy is also helpful and can provide wonderful “brain breaks” during long periods of homework or studying. Some recommended ways to fit exercise into your day can include:

  • Taking the dog for a walk before dinner
  • Getting off the bus one stop earlier (if age appropriate)
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Parking farther away when running errands or walking the perimeter of a store to increase steps
  • Exercising during TV commercials or video ads
  • Exploring age appropriate exercise videos (online or from the library)
  • Doing housework as a family - have the kids help out with age appropriate chores
  • Playing active video games instead of choosing sit-down video games
  • Having a dance party
  • Creating a family weekend adventure by exploring new playgrounds, bike trails, walking paths and hiking trails

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s physical activity needs, it is best to speak with his or her doctor.

Physical therapists at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition work alongside a group of medical professionals to help kids get moving, find enjoyable ways to be active and feel their best, and stay safe during physical activity.

Learn More About the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition
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Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Jenny Worthington, PT, DPT
Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition

Jenny is a licensed physical therapist with the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition. She graduated in 2009 from the Physical Therapy Program in the School of Allied Health Professions at The Ohio State University. Prior to working at Nationwide Children's, Jenny worked as a physical therapist at Good Samaritan North Health Center in Dayton, Ohio.

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Rebecca Fisher, PT
Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy

Rebecca began her experience at Nationwide Children's Hospital as a volunteer in the OT/PT Department. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 1993 with a Bachelor's degree in Allied Medicine and became a licensed Physical Therapist.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.