When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym, running on a treadmill, or lifting weights. But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes, or when playing tag. The Many Benefits of Exercise Everyone can benefit from regular exercise. Active kids will have: stronger muscles and bones leaner bodies less risk of becoming overweight a lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels a better outlook on life Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, fit kids sleep better. They're also better able to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test. The Three Elements of Fitness If you've ever watched kids on a playground, you've seen the three elements of fitness in action when they: run away from the kid who's "it" (endurance) cross the monkey bars (strength) bend down to tie their shoes (flexibility) Parents should encourage their kids to do a variety of activities so that they can work on all three elements. Endurance develops when kids regularly get aerobic activity. During aerobic exercise, large muscles are moving, the heart beats faster, and a person breathes harder. Aerobic activity strengthens the heart and improves the body's ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells. Aerobic exercise can be fun for both adults and kids. Aerobic activities include: basketball bicycling ice skating inline skating soccer swimming tennis walking jogging running Improving strength doesn't have to mean lifting weights. Instead, kids can do push-ups, stomach crunches, pull-ups, and other exercises to help tone and strengthen muscles. They also improve their strength when they climb, do a handstand, or wrestle. Stretching exercises help improve flexibility, allowing muscles and joints to bend and move easily through their full range of motion. Kids get chances every day to stretch when they reach for a toy, practice a split, or do a cartwheel. The Sedentary Problem Kids and teens are sitting around a lot more than they used to. They spend hours every day in front of a screen (TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices) looking at a variety of media (TV shows, videos, movies, games). Too much screen time and not enough physical activity add to the problem of childhood obesity. One of the best ways to get kids to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or other screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents: Put limits on the time spent using media, which includes TV, social media, and video games. Media should not take the place of getting enough sleep and being active. Limit screen time to 1 hour a day or less for children 2 to 5 years old. Discourage any screen time, except video-chatting, for kids younger than 18 months. Choose high-quality programming and watch it with your kids to help them understand what they're seeing. Keep TVs, computers, and video games out of children's bedrooms. Turn off screens during mealtimes. How Much Exercise Is Enough? Parents should make sure that their kids get enough exercise. So, how much is enough? Kids and teens should get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Toddlers and preschool children should play actively several times a day. Toddlers should get at least 60 minutes active play every day and preschoolers should have at least 120 minutes active play every day. This time should include planned, adult-led physical activity and unstructured active free play. Young children should not be inactive for long periods of time — no more than 1 hour unless they're sleeping. And school-age children should not be inactive for periods longer than 2 hours. Raising Fit Kids Combining regular physical activity with a healthy diet is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips for raising fit kids: Help your kids do in a variety of age-appropriate activities. Set a regular schedule for physical activity. Make being active a part of daily life, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Embrace a healthier lifestyle yourself, so you'll be a positive role model for your family. Be active together as a family. Keep it fun, so your kids will come back for more. Back to Articles Related Articles Motivating Kids to Be Active Parents can help instill a love of activity and help kids make it a part of their everyday routine. Read More Raising a Fit Preschooler Preschoolers have a lot of energy, and the physical skills and coordination to ride a tricycle or chase a butterfly. Read More Motivating Preschoolers to Be Active A preschooler's desire to move, move, move makes this a great time to encourage fitness habits that can last a lifetime. Read More Motivating School-Age Kids to Be Active Being active is a key component of good health for all school-age kids. So how do you get kids motivated to be active, especially those who aren't gifted athletes? Read More Playground Safety Following these safety guidelines can make neighborhood playgrounds entertaining and safe for your kids. Read More Toddlers: Learning by Playing It might look like just child's play, but toddlers are hard at work learning important physical skills as they gain muscle control, balance, and coordination. Read More Fitness for Kids Who Don't Like Sports Some kids aren't natural athletes and they may say they just don't like sports. What then? Read More Strength Training With a properly designed and supervised program, strength training can be a fun way for kids to build healthy muscles, joints, and bones. Read More Strength Training Is working out with weights safe for teens? The best way to build muscle tone and definition is to combine aerobic and flexibility exercises with the right kind of strength training. Read More Weight Management: Strength Training Exercises (Video) These videos guide teens through basic strength training exercises. Anyone can do these exercises, and they work well as part of a weight-loss plan. Read More What If I Don't Like Sports? Sports can be challenging when you're new to them, but they also can be really fun. Take a second look at sports - and learn other ways to be active - in this article for kids. Read More Be a Fit Kid A lot of people talk about fit kids, but how do you become one? Here are five rules to live by, if you want to eat right, be active, and keep a healthy weight. Read More Why Exercise Is Wise Exercise can help keep a kid's body fit and healthy. Learn more about what exercise can do for you in this article for kids. Read More Easy Exercises for Teens Finding it hard to fit in fitness? Try these simple exercises for teens. Read More Choosing the Right Sport for You If you're having trouble choosing a sport, this article can help! Read More Why Exercise Is Wise Getting the right amount of exercise can rev up your energy levels and even help you to feel better emotionally. Find out why. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.