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From the US Department of Health and Human Services

Physical Activity Guidelines for Active Children and Adolescents

60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical exercise recommended

Examples of Moderate- and Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activities and Muscle- and Bone-Strengthening Activities for Children and Adolescents

Type of Physical Activity

Children And Adolescents

 Moderate-intensity aerobic
  •  Active recreation, such as hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading
  • Bicycle riding
  • Brisk walking
 Vigorous-intensity aerobic
  •  Active games involving running and chasing, such as tag
  • Bicycle riding
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts, such as karate
  • Running
  • Sports such as soccer, ice or field hockey, basketball, swimming, tennis
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Games such as tug-of-war
  • Modified push-ups (with knees on the floor)
  • Resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands
  • Rope or tree climbing
  • Sit-ups (curl-ups or crunches)
  • Swinging on playground equipment/bars
  • Games such as hopscotch
  • Hopping, skipping, jumping
  • Jumping rope
  • Running
  • Sports such as gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, tennis


Note: Some activities, such as bicycling, can be moderate or vigorous intensity, depending upon level of effort

Physical Activity and Healthy Weight

Regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes a healthy body weight and body composition.

Exercise training in overweight or obese youth can improve body composition by reducing overall levels of fatness as well as abdominal fatness. Research studies report that fatness can be reduced by regular physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity 3 to 5 times a week, for 30 to 60 minutes.

Meeting the Guidelines

American youth vary in their physical activity participation. Some don't participate at all, others participate in enough activity to meet the Guidelines, and some exceed the Guidelines.

A 2014 study[1] by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that only about a quarter (24.8%) of youth aged 12 to 15 years engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, including activities both in school and outside of school, for at least 60 minutes daily.  Only 7.6% did not engage in such activity on any day of the week. Among boys, 27% met the Physical Activity Guidelines compared to 22.5% of girls.  More than one-half (60.2%) of boys surveyed and about one-half (49.4%) of girls engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes on 5 days or more each week. 

Children and adolescents can meet the Physical Activity Guidelines and become regularly physically active in many ways.

One practical strategy to promote activity in youth is to replace inactivity with activity whenever possible. For example, where appropriate and safe, young people should walk or bicycle to school instead of riding in a car. Rather than just watching sporting events on television, young people should participate in age-appropriate sports or games.

  • Children and adolescents who do not meet the Guidelines should slowly increase their activity in small steps and in ways that they enjoy. A gradual increase in the number of days and the time spent being active will help reduce the risk of injury.
  • Children and adolescents who meet the Guidelines should continue being active on a daily basis and, if appropriate, become even more active. Evidence suggests that even more than 60 minutes of activity every day may provide additional health benefits.
  • Children and adolescents who exceed the Guidelines should maintain their activity level and vary the kinds of activities they do to reduce the risk of overtraining or injury.

Children and adolescents with disabilities are more likely to be inactive than those without disabilities. Youth with disabilities should work with their health-care provider to understand the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them. When possible, children and adolescents with disabilities should meet the Guidelines. When young people are not able to participate in appropriate physical activities to meet the Guidelines, they should be as active as possible and avoid being inactive.