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Kids Need Exercise Too!

Discover Your Child's Fitness Needs
  -- By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor & Health Educator
As an adult, you need to exercise and maintain a good level of fitness for your health—to manage your weight, prevent diseases, reduce stress, and be able to accomplish normal activities of daily living, from carrying groceries to cleaning the house. Children need to be fit for the same reasons as you. Physical activity has the same benefits, including better sleep, and in some cases, improved behavior and attention. So how much is enough for your child?

Infants (up to 12 months old)
Developmentally, most infants are learning to roll over, sit, stand and possibly begin to walk during this phase of life.

There are no specific activity recommendations for infants, yet as a parent you should encourage the motor development skills listed above by providing a safe environment for play, and by limiting the amount of time your infant spends in car seats, swings, strollers, and walkers.

Toddlers (1-3 years old)
Developmentally, toddlers should be able to walk, run, jump, climb, and even kick.

Experts recommend about 1-1/2 hours of physical activity for toddlers, including playtime (especially outdoor activities), using playground equipment (make sure it is appropriately sized for a toddler), playing with balls, and using push/pull/ride toys.

As a parent, try to build in 30 minutes of structured, chaperoned, planned activity with your toddler each day. Allow time (60+ minutes) for unstructured play as well.

Preschoolers (3-5 years old)
Developmentally, most preschoolers should develop skills that including skipping, throwing and catching a ball, pedaling a bicycle, hopping, and balancing on one foot.

Experts recommend about 1-1/2 to 2 hours of physical activity for preschoolers, including activities like tag, playing catch, pedaling a bike or tricycle, pulling a wagon, playing with balls (including t-ball), tumbling, dancing, and playing on the playground.

As a parent, try to plan for 30-60 minutes of structured, chaperoned, planned activity with your preschooler each day. Allow time (60+ minutes) for unstructured play as well.

School-Age Children (6-12 years old)
Developmentally, 6 to 12-year-olds should have the ability to perform more complex movements, develop hand-eye coordination, and understand rules for games and sports.

Experts recommend about 1-1/2 to 2 hours of physical activity for school-aged kids, including moderate-intensity activities like swimming, bicycling, outdoor play, jumping rope, and team sports. Younger children should focus on non-competitive sports and gradually move into competitive sports as they get older.

As a parent, try to plan for 30-60 minutes of structured, chaperoned, planned activity while providing plenty of sporting and activity equipment in your home. Allow time (60+ minutes) for unstructured play as well.

Adolescents (13+ years old)
Developmentally, adolescents are experiencing puberty and bodily changes as they mature into young adults. You'll likely notice them grow much taller and stronger.

Experts recommend 30-60 minutes of physical activity for adolescents. By this age, allow your teen to choose their own activities, based on their interests—but make sure they're age-appropriate. Some ideas include jogging and running, competitive sports, fitness classes, gymnastics, bicycling, and exercise videos.

As a parent, be a resource and support your child's activity choices. Try to provide her with the equipment and transportation necessary to reach her goals. Ensure that your teen exercises vigorously at least 3 days per week.

Now that you know how much activity your child needs, the following articles will help you get started:

Exercising with Your Pet
Fun Family Fitness
Geocaching: A Family-Friendly Activity
Help Your Loved Ones Stay Healthy
Workout Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents