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How Much Exercise Should My Child Do?

How Much Exercise Should My Child Do?


In a recent post, we discussed the problems that can occur in children, and teenagers with over-training. Following on from this, we thought it was important to discuss what level of exercise is appropriate for sporty children. Some general suggestions, which are listed below, comply with the International Federation of Sports Medicine’s (FIMS) position statement on physical training in children and adolescents.

  • Physical fitness for young people should be encouraged and recommended
  • Before taking part in a competitive sports program the child should undergo a detailed medical examination
  • All coaches should be informed about the physical development of children and appropriate exercise levels for each age group
  • Children should be exposed to a variety of sporting activities at a young age
  • Warm up should be encouraged
  • Correct nutrition is important
  • Rules and duration of the game should be appropriate to the child’s age
  • Training sessions should be relatively short

Various recommendations can be discussed for different sports (Brukner and Khan, 2007). Long distance runners up to age 14 may train 3 times per week with maximum running distances in the 12-14 age group of 10km. Those aged 15 could train 5 times per week and run up to half marathon distances (21.1km). Swimmers aged 10-12 could complete 3-5 sessions per week of about 60 minutes. The number and duration of training sessions can be increased from age 13.

Often it is difficult to know if your child is over-training but these symptoms can give you some clues. Your child may be more irritable and may display a loss of motivation. If your child is reporting increased muscle soreness or an increased occurrence of injuries you may need to question whether your child is overtraining.

On the other hand, for children who do not have sporting tendencies, it is important to ensure they get adequate levels of exercise. We hear constantly in the news about healthy eating and getting enough exercise This is really important for physical development, maintaining healthy weight and for developing social skills. NHS guidelines for children aged 5-18 recommend children get at least 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. This should be a mixture of moderate intensity exercise and vigorous exercise. Moderate intensity exercise includes walking to school, cycling a bike, or playing in the playground. Vigorous exercise requires a greater effort and includes playing football, gymnastics or playing chasing. NHS guidelines also stress the importance of doing some muscle strengthening activities. Children should not lift heavy weights as part of their exercise routine but strengthening exercises that are appropriate for children could include swinging on bars in a playground, playing tug of war, or gymnastics training. Overall exercise should be an enjoyable part of a child’s routine.

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