How much exercise should my child get each day?
Question: How much exercise should my child get each day?
Answer: In today's technology-focused world, our kids are getting less physical activity, yet exercise is essential to healthy development. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that school-age children get at least one hour of physical activity daily. Experts at the National Association for Sport and Physical Education suggest that toddlers move their bodies for 90 minutes, with 30 minutes dedicated to planned activity and an hour to free play, and preschoolers should get two hours split evenly between structured and unstructured play.
These recommendations focus on the level of activity children need for their physical development. Remember, any movement is good movement. Kids can take advantage of Arizona's great year-round weather to ride bikes, swim and simply run around.
Because kids can get tired out with lengthy bouts of activity, break up activity into 15-minute increments. Consider signing your child up for a team sport or enrolling in a community recreation class such as swimming or gymnastics. But talk with your pediatrician before your child starts an organized sports program to make sure he or she is developmentally ready for it.
If an hour feels overwhelming at first, start by replacing 15 minutes of screen time each day with an outdoor activity. Grab a ball and play catch or host a game of front-yard tag. Slowly add more increments as the activity becomes part of the day's routine. And look for creative ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily life, such as walking to the park or bus stop instead of driving, going for a family bike ride after dinner, or racing to the mailbox.
Dr. John Sarmiento, MD, is a pediatrician at Banner Children’s.