Activity Recommendations for Kids

The consensus of government, health organizations and medical experts is that children should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day in all kinds of activity.
Activity Recommendations for Kids

A child's exercise and activity levels affect body weight. Body weight results from the relationship between "calories in" from food and beverages and "calories out" from metabolism, growth, and physical activity. Two elements make up "calories out" — regular physical activity, which burns calories, and screen time, or time spent in front of the TV, which reduces time spent burning calories.

The Goal — 1 Hour Of Daily Physical Activity
The consensus of government, health organizations and medical experts 1 is that children should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day in various types of activity, from playing outside after school to riding a bike to the store. Moderate-intensity activities that require fast walking or running are particularly important, as are age-appropriate exercises that strengthen muscles. 2 This level of activity requires time for active play outside of school hours.

Several societal trends work against children getting the activity that they need. Many young children begin their schooling in pre-school or all-day kindergarten, limiting time for unstructured, active play. The time, space and staffing for physical activity may be limited in day care centers, extended day and after-school programs, and other community settings. 3 Opportunities for children to be active at school have diminished, with schools cutting back on recess time or physical education classes to allow more time for academic subjects.

Reasons To Limit Screen Time
Limiting screen time is a key strategy to reduce the amount of time spent in sedentary behavior and encourage the child to find something more active to do. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time for children older than two years of age to a maximum of two hours per day and suggests no screen time for children under the age of two.

It is estimated that up to 25% of children exceed the recommended screen time limit 4 and the number of hours of daily television watching has been linked to weight gain. 5 Children burn fewer calories sitting in front of a screen than they do playing outside. Furthermore, children who have a television in their bedroom are more likely to develop weight issues. 6

The effects of childhood television watching may carry into the adult years. Studies have found that adults who watched the most television as children weighed more and were less fit than those adults who watched less television as children.7

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1 US Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Chapter 3: Active Children and Adolescents.

2 Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity for Everyone. How much physical activity do children need?

3 Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy Statement. Prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity. Pediatrics. 2003;112:424-30.

4 Sisson SB, Broyles ST. Social-Ecological correlates of excessive TV viewing: difference by race and sex. J Phys Act Health. 2012 Mar;9(3):449-55.

5 Sisson SB, Broyles ST, Baker BL, Katzmarzyk PT. Television, reading, and computer time: correlates of school-day leisure-time sedentary behavior and relationship with overweight in children in the U.S. J Phys Act Health. 2011 Sep;8 Suppl 2:S188-97.

6 Council on Communications and Media, Strasburger VC. Children, adolescents, obesity, and the media. Pediatrics. 2011 Jul;128(1):201-8.

7 Landhuis E, et al. Programming obesity and poor fitness: the long-term impact of childhood television. Obesity. 2008 Jun;16(6):1457-59.