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Exercise for Children

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Infants and children needs daily physical activity because it:

  • supports brain development
  • builds strong muscles, joints and bones
  • improves coordination, balance and flexibility
  • helps them reach and keep a healthy weight
  • increases relaxation and improves sleep
  • increases confidence, happiness and their social skills
  • makes them learn better at school.

Your child can get enough exercise with everyday, unstructured activities such as walking, running, jumping, chasing about, riding bikes, climbing trees or using playground equipment. Encourage them to move more and sit less.

Sports and structured exercise

As your child reaches school age, they may do more structured exercise, such as dancing or yoga.

Many children find sport fun. They learn new physical skills, enjoy working in a team, and learn the thrill of winning and how to bounce back from defeat.

However, not all children enjoy or have the physical skills needed for particular sports. Support your kids by encouraging them to practise and overcome difficulties. It’s okay if your children dislike sport. Help them find an activity they relish: anything from judo to skateboarding.

How much activity do kids need?

  • from birth to one year, babies should have some physical activity, especially supervised floor play in a safe environment. While awake, infants should not be restrained or kept inactive for more than an hour
  • toddlers and children aged one to five years should be physically active for at least three hours a day
  • kids aged 5 to 17 should have at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, and should participate in activities that strengthen their muscles and bones at least three days a week.

Limit TV and screen play

The Department of Health recommends that children under two should not watch television or use electronic media. For older children, limit the time spent looking at television, playing with tablets or other digital devices to:

  • less than one hour a day for children aged two to five years
  • less than two hours a day for children aged five to twelve years.

What parents can do to get kids more active

  • Encourage children to explore and play outdoors, alone or with friends. If you don’t have a backyard, take them to a suitable place such as a park or beach. Young children should never be left unsupervised in public and remember to teach your child about talking to strangers
  • Allow kids to help with simple tasks, such as hanging up washing or weeding the garden.
  • Walk younger children to school or let older ones ride a bike, rather than driving them or using public transport. Teach them about road safety along the way.
  • Exercise with your children and plan daily activities.
  • Encourage kids to exercise by supplying equipment such as skipping ropes and balls, or improvise with things such as an obstacle course of cardboard boxes.

Parents can set the best example by keeping active themselves.

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