Physical Activity for Youth
Children and adolescents (ages 6 - 17) should be physically active for at least 60 minutes daily. In 2009, just 18% of high school students participated in at least 60 minutes of PA each day. Those 60 minutes should include aerobic, strength and bone-strengthening activities.
- Aerobic: Most of the time spent being active should be doing moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activities (vigorous-intensity activities should be done on at least three days of the week).
- Strength-building: muscle-strengthening activities should be included in the 60 minutes of physical activity on at least three days of the week.
- Bone-strengthening: As part of the 60 minutes of activity daily, bone-strengthening activities should be included three days of the week.
Encourage youth to be physically active through:
- Age-appropriate activities
- Doing three types of activity - aerobic, muscle-building and bone-building
- A variety of activities
- Participation in activities they enjoy
For those who have limited experience with physical activity, remember to start slowly and build gradually over the course of weeks and months. When it comes to youth, focus on physical activity, not necessarily on organized exercise. Look for ways to make ordinary daily activities more active and opt for those things youth will have fun doing and aim for light- to moderate-intensity activities for short periods of time. Finally, remember to consult your physician with any questions or concerns you have about increasing physical activity.
Aerobic activities are those that incorporate running, swimming, biking and jumping rope, to name a few. These can be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity; include vigorous-intensity activities at least three times each week.
Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities:
- Active recreation, such as hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading
- Bicycle riding
- Brisk walking
Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities:
- Active games involving running and chasing, such as tag, soccer, and basketball
- Bicycle riding
- Jumping rope
- Martial arts, such as karate
- Sports such as soccer, ice or field hockey, basketball, swimming, tennis
- Cross-country skiing
Strength-building activities should be done three times each week as part of the daily 60 minutes of physical activity. Younger children can do structure activities like gymnastics or unstructured ones like playing on a jungle gym. Older children and adolescents might enjoy push-ups, pull-ups and weightlifting.
Examples of muscle-strengthening activities:
- Games such as tug-of-war
- Modified push-ups (with knees on the floor)
- Resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands
- Rope or tree climbing
- Sit-ups (curl-ups or crunches)
- Swinging on playground equipment/bars
Weight-bearing activities like hopping, jumping rope, skipping, running and sports and activities that incorporate those movements/activities (i.e. gymnastics and basketball) help to build strong bones. Include these types of activities three times weekly as part of the 60 minutes daily.
Examples of bone-strengthening activities:
- Games such as hopscotch
- Hopping, skipping, jumping
- Jumping rope
- Sports such as gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, tennis
- Youth Physical Activity Guidelines Toolkit (Source: CDC)
- Chapter 3: Active Children and Adolescents (Source: CDC)
- Physical Activity for Youth (Source: CDC)
- Team Nutrition (Source: USDA)