Exercise for 5-18 year olds

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

  • at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day – this should range from  moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running and tennis
  • on three days a week, these activities should involve exercises for strong muscles, such as push-ups, and exercises for strong bones, such as jumping and running

Many vigorous activities can help you build strong muscles and bones, including anything involving running and jumping, such as gymnastics, martial arts and football.

Children and young people should reduce the time they spend sitting watching TV, playing computer games and travelling by car when they could walk or cycle instead.

 

What counts as moderate 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 activity raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate level is if you can still talk, but you can't sing the words to a song.

 

What counts as vigorous activity?

Vigorous activity is linked to better general health, stronger bones and muscles, as well as higher levels of self-esteem.

There is good evidence vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity. A rule of thumb is that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.

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

  • playing chase
  • energetic dancing
  • swimming
  • running
  • gymnastics
  • football
  • rugby
  • martial arts, such as karate
  • cycling fast or on hilly terrain

Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. 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 activities strengthen muscles?

Muscle strength is necessary for daily activities, and to build and maintain strong bones, regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, and help maintain a healthy weight.

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

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
  • 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
  • basketball
  • tennis

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


What activities strengthen bones?

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

Examples of bone-strengthening activities for children include:

  • activities that require children to lift their body weight or 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
  • dance
  • football
  • basketball
  • martial arts

Examples of bone-strengthening activities for young people include:

  • dance
  • aerobics
  • weight training
  • running
  • gymnastics
  • football
  • rugby
  • netball
  • hockey
  • badminton
  • 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.