Research is showing that physical activity decreases by five to 10 percent each year during childhood and that by high school, less than 25 percent of teens are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

It’s no secret that exercise has many benefits:

  • Increases cardiovascular health
  • Prevents obesity
  • Helps social development
  • Improves academic performance
  • Manages mental health and behavior

“Physical activity is so vital for all areas of growth-- physical, social and intellectual, but our children are simply not as active as they should be," said Dr. Brooke Pengel, pediatric sports medicine specialist at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. “We now have a term for this-- ‘exercise deficit disorder’ -- a condition resulting from the reduced amount of physical demands our children and adolescents are putting on their bodies.”

Help Your Child Become More Active

Many parents expect that children will receive the appropriate amount of activity during recess, physical educational classes at school and recreational sports activities.

However, studies are showing that more than half of the time during physical education class, recess and even sports practices, children are not being active. To ensure their children’s best health, parents should consider the following guidelines and help their children find more time to be active.

Children Older Than Age 6

Children older than 6 years should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activities each day, including moderate/vigorous aerobic activities that incorporate muscle and bone strengthening. This type of activity should result in an increased heart rate, increased breathing and a light sweat.

Children Younger Than Age 6

There is no formal guideline for children younger than 6, but experts recommend that they are active in unstructured play for 15 minutes every hour while awake (or three hours per day). Children should be doing physical activities they are interested in and should be joined in the activity by other members of their family.

Ideas for Keeping Your Family Active

  1. Choose to walk or bike to school
  2. Set aside a weekend day for an outdoor adventure: go swimming, sledding, biking, hiking
  3. Take classes together: try out yoga or indoor rock climbing
  4. Take a challenge activity together: participate in a fun run for charity
  5. Walk the dog (or the neighbor’s dog!)
  6. Set limits on electronics