How much physical activity do children need to keep healthy?

According to the latest National Health Service recommendations to stay healthy or to improve health, children and young people need to do three types of physical activity each week: aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity.

To maintain a basic level of health, children and young people aged five and above need to do:

At least 60 minutes (1 hour) of physical activity every day, which should include

  • moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling and playground activities
  • Vigorous-intensity activity, such as fast running and tennis.

On three days a week, these activities should involve

  • muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups or other bodyweight exercises
  • Bone-strengthening activities, such as running.

The children’s martial arts program at Total Martial Arts Swindon is designed to include all the various types of exercise required to keep children healthy as well as encouraging an active and health lifestyle.

How to encourage children to do more moderate-intensity activity:

Don’t sit for too long

Children and young people should minimise the amount of time they spend sitting watching TV, playing computer games, and travelling by car when they could walk or cycle instead.

Make exercise fun

  • walking to school
  • playing in the playground
  • skateboarding
  • rollerblading
  • walking the dog
  • riding a bike

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but you can’t sing the words to a song.

What counts as vigorous-intensity activity?
Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most young people include:

  • playing chase
  • energetic dancing
  • aerobics
  • running
  • gymnastics
  • playing football
  • martial arts, such as karate
  • riding a bike fast or on hilly ground

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity means you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.


What counts as muscle-strengthening activity?

For young people, muscle-strengthening activities are those that require them to lift their own body weight or to work against a resistance, such as climbing a rope.

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities suitable for children include:

  • games such as tug of war
  • swinging on playground equipment bars
  • gymnastics
  • rope or tree climbing
  • sit-ups

What counts as bone-strengthening activity?
Bone-strengthening activities produce an impact or tension force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength.

Examples of bone-strengthening activities suitable for children include:

  • activities that require children to lift their body weight or to work against a resistance
  • jumping and climbing activities, combined with the use of playground equipment and toys
  • games such as hopscotch
  • skipping with a rope
  • walking
  • running
  • martial arts