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Ask an Expert - Physical Activity for Kids

How much physical activity do kids need?
Ask an Expert - Physical Activity for Kids

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By Donna Terbizan, Ph.D. Professor,
Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Two published reports have just emphasized that children and adolescents should participate in one hour or more of physical activity per day. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), an association of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have just published fact sheets regarding research in health promotion, which found that our children are not as active as they should be. HHS has just published the first ever Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. In that document, the researchers note that physical activity is beneficial for all age, ethnic and racial groups and they suggested amounts necessary for improving health and reducing the risk of disease. This document suggests that children and adolescents should participate in:

  • One hour or more of physical activity per day, and most of the activity should be moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity
  • Vigorous physical activity at least three days a week
  • Muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups and sit-ups and playing tug-of-war, three days a week and incorporate bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope, hopping or running, at least three days a week NASPE agrees with this statement, as well as referencing a 2003 NASPE publication titled Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of Guidelines for Children Ages 5-12. Summary guidelines from this publication state:
  • Children should accumulate at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of age-appropriate physical activity on all or most days of the week.
  • Children should participate in several bouts of physical activity lasting 15 minutes or more each day.
  • Children should participate each day in a variety of age-appropriate physical activities designed to achieve optimal health, wellness, fitness and performance benefits.
  • Extended periods (periods of two hours or more) of inactivity are discouraged for children, especially during the daytime hours.
  • NASPE – Physical Activity for Children: www.aahperd.org/naspe/template.cfm?template=pr_123103.html
  • HHS – Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: www.health.gov/paguidelines.
  • For additional information, visit the following Web sites:
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