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Physical Activity Strategies for Children

Important Information About Physical Activity and Exercise for Children

All children and adolescents should be encouraged to be active. Where safety is not a problem, children and adolescents should be sent outside after school to engage in age-appropriate activities. Extracurricular school activities should include some activities that require movement. Sedentary television, computer and video game time should be limited to two hours or less each day.

Children and adolescents who have medical problems or conditions should be cleared by their physicians for exercise and referred to physical therapists who can design appropriate exercise plans for them.

There are no hard and fast rules for the number of minutes per day that children and adolescents should be active. However, a good rule of thumb is to aim for at least an hour per day. Examples of good activities include: walking, biking, dancing, team sports or games, etc. Computer games that promote physical activity and exercising in front of the television (on stationary bicycles, treadmills, steppers, etc.) are also acceptable choices.

Easy Ways to Help Children Increase Activity

  • When taking children to the store, park further away from the entrance so that everyone walks a little more.
  • Encourage children to take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
  • Find a few easy games and activities children would enjoy that require some physical activity. These can be done with friends or family.

Make Exercise Fun

  • Take a 10 minute walk with your child after dinner.
  • Toss a ball or Frisbee® back and forth.
  • Play "Simon Says", tag or hide and seek.
  • Learn a few dance steps or martial arts moves together.
  • Ride bikes together
  • Have children participate in chores such as washing cars, working in the garden, etc.

Physical Activity Goals for Children

  • Help children build up to at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, most days of the week. Children who are not used to being active should become more active gradually.
  • Get children involved in a variety of different activities that require movement so they do not get bored with just one activity! Activities can include computer games that promote physical activity, exercise while watching television (on stationary bicycles, treadmills, steppers, etc.), as well as other indoor and outdoor activities.
  • Children with medical problems or special needs should be cleared by their physicians for physical activity. If specific exercise plans are needed, children should be referred to physical therapists.

Good web sites for children and adolescents who need to get more active:

Different Kinds of Physical Activity

This is not a complete list. Use it to start thinking about activities you might enjoy.

Games and Leisurely Sports

  • Ping Pong
  • Shuffleboard
  • Pool (Billiards)
  • Table hockey
  • Golf
  • Miniature golf
  • Riflery
  • Archery
  • Bowling
  • Horseshoes

Activities That Can Be Done at Low Intensity

  • Walking
  • Aerobics
  • Pilates
  • Dance
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Ice skating
  • Stationary bicycling
  • Tai Chi
  • Badminton

Build Up To 30 Minutes of Brisk Walking Five Days a Week

 Warm Up TimeFast Walk TimeCool Down TimeTotal Time
Week 1 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 5 min walk slowly 5 min 15 min
Week 2 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 8 min walk slowly 5 min 18 min
Week 3 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 11 min walk slowly 5 min 21 min
Week 4 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 14 min walk slowly 5 min 24 min
Week 5 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 17 min walk slowly 5 min 27 min
Week 6 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 20 min walk slowly 5 min 30 min
Week 7 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 23 min walk slowly 5 min 33 min
Week 8 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 26 min walk slowly 5 min 36 min
Week 9 walk slowly 5 min walk briskly 30 min walk slowly 5 min 40 min