Kids this age need physical activity to build strength, coordination, and confidence — and to lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle. They're also gaining more control over how active they are.

School-age kids should have many chances to participate in a variety of activities, sports, and games that fit for their personality, ability, age, and interests. Brainstorm with your kids on activities that feel right. Most kids won't mind a daily dose of fitness as long as it's fun.

Physical activity guidelines for school-age kids recommend that each day they:

  • get 1 hour or more of moderate and vigorous physical activity on most or all days
  • participate in several bouts of physical activity of 15 minutes or more each day
  • avoid periods of inactivity of 2 hours or more unless sleeping

Fitness at Home

Many parents and kids think of organized sports when they think of fitness. Though there are many advantages to signing a child up for the softball team, practice and games once or twice a week will not be enough to reach activity goals. Also, parents can no longer rely on physical education in schools to provide enough physical activity for kids.

Here are some ways to keep your kids moving at home:

  • Make physical activity part of the daily routine. From household chores to an after-dinner walk, keep your family active every day.
  • Allow enough time for free play. Kids can burn more calories and have more fun when left to their own devices. Playing tag, riding bikes around the neighborhood, and building snowmen are fun and healthy.
  • Keep a variety of games and sports equipment on hand. It doesn't have to be expensive — an assortment of balls, hula-hoops, and jump ropes can keep kids busy for hours.
  • Be active together. It'll get you moving, and kids love to play with their parents.
  • Limit time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching TV, being online, and playing video games and games apps.

If you run out of possibilities at home, take advantage of local playgrounds and athletic fields. Make family fitness outings part of your regular routine. Let family members choose an activity — go hiking, ice skating, or try out the rock-climbing gym. Anything goes, as long as everyone can participate.

And remember: You'll help show your kids that exercise is important by regularly exercising yourself.

Fitness for Kids

Through physical activities, kids learn about sportsmanship, setting goals, meeting challenges, teamwork, and the value of practice.

Keep in mind your child's age and developmental level, natural abilities, and interests. Kids 6 to 8 years old are sharpening basic physical skills like jumping, throwing, kicking, and catching. Some enjoy doing this in organized sports teams, but non-competitive leagues are best for younger kids. Show your support by coaching your child's team or cheering from the stands on game days.

Kids 9 to 12 years old are refining, improving, and coordinating skills. Some become even more committed to a sport while others drop out as competition heats up and level of play improves.

It's OK if a child isn't interested in traditional sports, but it's important to find alternative ways to be active. Encourage a child who doesn't like soccer, basketball, or other team sports to explore other active options, like karate, fencing, golf, bicycling, skateboarding, and tennis.

Preventing Problems

Kids who participate in sports are at risk for injuries, so be sure yours wear the proper protective equipment, such as a helmet and protective pads when roller-blading. Kids who specialize in one sport are also at risk of overuse injuries, including stress fractures and joint injuries.

A child with a chronic health condition or disability should not be excluded from fitness activities. Some activities may need to be changed or adapted, and some may be too risky depending on the condition. Talk to your doctor about which activities are safe for your child.

Kids who enjoy sports and exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. And staying fit can improve self-esteem, prevent obesity, and decrease the risk of serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease later in life.

If your child refuses to play or interact with peers, or complains of pain during activity, talk with your doctor.

Back to Articles


Related Articles

Fitness and Your 13- to 18-Year-Old

Kids who enjoy exercise tend to stay active throughout their lives. Learn how to encourage fitness in your teen.

Read More

Fitness and Your 2- to 3-Year-Old

Kids this age are naturally active, so be sure to provide lots of opportunities for your child to practice basic skills, such as running, kicking, and throwing.

Read More

Fitness and Your 4- to 5-Year-Old

Take advantage of your child's natural tendency to be active. Staying fit can help improve kids' self-esteem and decrease the risk of serious illnesses later in life.

Read More

Growth and Your 6- to 12-Year-Old

As kids grow from grade-schoolers to preteens, there continues to be a wide range of "normal" as far as height, weight, and shape.

Read More

Medical Care and Your 6- to 12-Year-Old

Regular well-child exams are essential to keep kids healthy and up-to-date with immunizations. Find out what to expect at the doctor's office.

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

Can Kids With Asthma Play Sports?

Kids who have asthma can and do play sports. Find out how to do it safely in this article for kids.

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

Nutrition & Fitness Center

You know the importance of exercising and eating nutritious foods, but do you know how to raise a healthy and active child? Get practical advice and tips.

Read More

Feeding Your Child Athlete

All kids need to eat balanced meals and have a healthy diet. But should that balance change for kids who play on a sports team or work out?

Read More

Five Ways to Avoid Sports Injuries

Sports injuries often can be prevented. Find out how in this article for kids.

Read More

Nutrition & Fitness Center

Want to know more about eating right and being active? This is the place!

Read More

Kids and Exercise

Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges.

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

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

Communication and Your 6- to 12-Year-Old

Communicating with a child is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding experiences for both parent and child. Learn how to connect with your 6- to 12-year-old.

Read More

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2019 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

Search our entire site.