Should you need urgent health advice please contact your GP or call NHS 111. In an emergency please visit A&E or call 999.

Why is exercise so important for children?

Playing football
  • Date published:

  • Author: oliverkyle

Being physically active brings lots of benefits for children. Some of these are immediately obvious, such as improvements to sleep and the way they feel in themselves, while others have a longer term impact, for example improvements in overall fitness and stronger muscles and bones.

Physical activity also helps build children’s confidence and develops their social skills. It helps improve their co-ordination, as well as their concentration and learning. Alongside a healthy diet, physical activity is also key in helping your child maintain a healthy weight.

What is aerobic exercise?

Moderate intensity aerobic exercise is where you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break into a sweat. You know you’re working at a moderate intensity if you’re able to talk, but unable to sing the words to a song.

Vigorous intensity aerobic exercise on the other hand is where you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has increased significantly. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

On the park

Make sure that when your child is taking part in exercise or physical activity, they are at least working at moderate intensity, that means they’re breathing faster and feeling warmer.

What activities are best?

Guidelines for children age 5 -18 years suggest at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. The activity does not have to be all in one go, you can build it up by carrying out different activities throughout the day.

Children could try and include activities ranging from more moderate things like having fun in the playground or park, or going for a bike ride, to more vigorous exercise such as running and tennis.

You can take a look at the Better Health 10 minute shake up activities for some inspiration.

Activities that strengthen bone and muscles are important for growing children, and can include:

  • swinging on playground equipment bars
  • jumping and climbing activities games such as hopscotch
  • skipping with a rope
  • walking
  • running
  • gymnastics
  • dance
  • football
  • basketball
  • martial arts
  • tennis
  • rugby
  • sit-ups and press-ups