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Making Physical Activity a Way of Life: AAP Policy Explained

Making Physical Activity a Way of Life Making Physical Activity a Way of Life

​​​​​Parents, would you answer “true” or “false” to these statements?

  • My children and I are physically active enough to break a sweat every day.
  • My children probably will be physically active as adults.
  • I will be physically active when I am a grandparent.

If you mostly answered “true,” you are teaching your child about lifelong physical literacy. A physically literate person can and wants to be physically active as a child and as an adult.

How much physical activity do kids nee​d each day?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants, children, teens, and children with special needs have time for physical activity each day. Here’s how much they need:

  • Infants need at least 30 minutes of “tummy time” and other interactive play, spread throughout each day.
  • Kids aged 3-5 need at least 3 hours of physical activity per day, or about 15 minutes every hour they are awake.
  • Kids 6 years and older need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week.

Luckily, there are lots of opportunities and choices in how kids can stay active. Here are a few ideas:​

​Benefits of physi​cal activity

​Most kids don’t move enough. Just 25% get a healthy amount. Many parents are not active, either. That’s why it’s so important to make time for moderate to vigorous activity on most days. Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Helps prevent obesity, heart disease, and diabetes
  • Helps students focus in school
  • For teens, helps avoid risk-taking behaviors like smoking, drinking, and using drugs
  • Improves sleep
  • Burns calories
  • Strengthens the cardiovascular system
  • Builds strong bones and muscles
  • Increases flexibility
  • Diffuses stress
  • Teaches teamwork and sportsmanship
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Improves an overall sense of well-being

​When ki​d​s resist

Some kids can't wait to get home from school, stake out a place on the couch, and spend the rest of the day watching TV or playing video games. Physical activity is just not on their radar. Turning exercise into a lifelong habit might take some creativity and time.

If your child resists being physically active, try givin​​g choices and encouraging new things. See if they are willing to try a new activity with a friend. Find out what your child wants to do and do it together or find activities that the whole family can do. Let your inner child out!

The best me​dicine

The AAP urges families to make lifelong physical activity a goal. It’s the best medicine parents can give their kids for a lifetime of health.

More information:

Last Updated
Adapted from AAP News Parent Plus (Copyright © 2020 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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