How much exercise should our kids get?

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ExerciseAs parents, many of us remember playing outside in the summer from morning until the street lights came on. There are few neighborhoods today where that is the norm. Play time for kids is very structured now, and today’s parents are more likely to be pleading with their kids to get off of the couch and away from the various screens to spend a little time outdoors.

We never thought of “playing” as exercise and the emphasis on exercise as “work” has made being outdoors a little less attractive to some of our kids. How can we encourage our kids to spend more time outdoors being active?

The Center for Disease Control and Mayo Clinic both agree that kids of any age should have 60 minutes of physical activity every day. At least 3 days a week, muscle strengthening activity (gymnastics, playing on the monkey bars), and 3 times a week, bone-strengthening activities (jumping rope and practice for sports or playing sports like soccer or football).

The National Football League has started a program to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity called NFLPlay 60. This online program encourages both adults and children to spend 60 minutes a day in some sort of physical activity. Lots of ideas and group activities are listed on their website if you would like to get involved individually or through your school or community.

Set aside time for play by setting goals around a healthier lifestyle for the whole family (60 minutes a day of activity is good for parents as well!). Some other tips on getting your kids to spend more time outdoors are:


  • Set a goal to spend 60 minutes a day in some type(s) of activity
  • Join in: play as a family
  • Limit screen time
  • Plan family trips to a pool or around an activity like miniature golf
  • Let your child bring a friend along
  • Start a tradition of a family game of tag after dinner
  • Let your child choose the activity (or choose from a list of activities)
  • Make it fun!

Children do not need a formal exercise regimen. Choose (or let them choose) age-appropriate activities like bike riding, hiking up a local hill, jumping rope in the driveway, climbing trees and other playtime activities that will provide exercise without them realizing it.

Kids don’t need much encouragement to hop like a kangaroo or stretch like a cat. Use your imagination, or let your child use theirs, and make exercise fun!

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