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Physical Activity for Kids: Benefits & Ideas for Kids of All Ages


Kids on opposing teams chasing after a soccer ball

It’s important for kids of all ages to get enough exercise to help prevent childhood obesity. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that school-aged kids and teens get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. But how do you make it happen? Here are some exercise and sports ideas for kids to help get your family moving and participating more in healthy activities together.

Exercise for Toddlers
Toddlers are born explorers and adventurers. They want to test out their newfound walking skills. But two things might impede physical activity for toddlers: screen time and strollers. Before age 2, the AAP warns, kids should have no screen time whatsoever. And while strollers may be a fact of life with a large family, or those who need to cover longer distances on foot (city dwellers), exercise for children is vital. If you’re not sure how to stuff some physical activity into your toddler’s day, you can still make sure your child gets time out of the stroller to walk with you every day.

Exercise for Preschoolers
Keeping preschoolers active and away from screens isn’t hard if there’s a playground nearby. To get your child to engage in physical activity, take them to a safe park or playground and let them run wild. Stock up on toys like balls, bikes, and jump ropes, that encourage physical play. Young children can also walk longer distances without tiring, so you can let them run errands with you, literally! For example, have your preschooler walk alongside the shopping cart instead of riding inside it.

Some other exercise ideas for toddlers and preschoolers include:

  • Aerobic Exercises: playing tag, dancing
  • Muscle-Strengthening Exercises: playing on a jungle gym, tug of war
  • Bone-Building Exercises: jumping rope; skippin;, hop scotch

Exercise for Gradeschoolers
The 60 minutes-a-day recommendation of physical activity for kids is targeted at ages 6 and up. Of course, it doesn’t need to be 60 minutes in one stretch – break the activity up into smaller blocks such as walking to and from school). Also make time for healthy active family outings, like hikes or bike rides, which sets a good example and gets everyone moving together. Other exercise and sports ideas for kids include:

  • Aerobic Exercises: skating; soccer; swimming; walking to school
  • Muscle-Strengthening Exercises: climbing trees or climbing walls, gymnastics
  • Bone-Building Exercises: Basketball, relay races

Exercise for Tweens & Teens
According to the AAP, only half of children aged 12 to 21 engage in regular exercise. Help kids develop an exercise habit in their preteen years and pave the way to lifelong fitness, especially since most teens have access to many types of physical activity, but often choose to do none at all. Get them exercising regularly by encouraging your teen or tween to try out for a sports team, make martial arts a hobby, or host an afterschool dance party to blow off steam. Additionally, you can encourage your child to participate in any of the following teen sports ideas:

  • Aerobic Exercises: baseball; cheerleading; field or ice hockey; football; skiing; tennis; dancing; water polo
  • Muscle Strengthening Exercises: push-ups; sit-ups; weight lifting; yoga
  • Bone-Building Exercises: parkour; running; volleyball

In collaboration with National 4-H Council. Visit for more tips, ideas and activities for the entire family.

© Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019

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