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Categories > Children’s Health > Exercise

Fitting fitness into your child’s day
For preschoolers
For school-age kids
For tweens and teens


When is your child ready for the gym?
When is your child ready for the gym?

Exercising at a gym or health club is best reserved for pre-adolescents and teenagers. Gym equipment such as treadmills can be dangerous for children under age 5. Although older children may use such devices with adult supervision, children younger than age 13 are better served participating in outdoor play.

There’s no denying it: American kids are getting bigger and bigger. In fact, the number of obese teens has tripled over the last three decades.

If your kids aren’t getting the minimum hour of daily activity recommended for children younger than 18 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s time to involve them in some age-appropriate activities that will encourage them to get moving.

For preschoolers

For children who aren’t yet school age, experts recommend “free play.” This means encouraging them to go outside and run around (with proper supervision, of course). Take them to the playground, teach them how to play tag and hide-and-seek, toss them a ball to chase, even if they’re too young to catch it. The point is to keep them moving.

Show your kids how to take advantage of the sights and sounds of the season. Organize an apple-picking trip or a bicycle outing to enjoy the fall foliage. Your little ones may even like helping parents rake leaves. This will help teach them that being active doesn’t have to be boring.

For school-age kids

Once kids reach school age, they can begin playing sports and become involved in other group activities. Younger children benefit from activities such as ballet and gymnastics or team sports like soccer and baseball. And if your children’s school offers physical activity programs, make sure your kids are making the most of them.

If competitive sports don’t appeal to your children, encourage them to try activities like in-line skating or skateboarding. Just make sure they wear the proper protective gear like helmets and wrist guards.

For tweens and teens

Older kids have even more opportunities to be active. Unfortunately, they have more sedentary distractions, too, like texting and playing video games.

As your children’s independence begins to take hold, encourage them to choose activities they enjoy. They may want to get involved in school sports like track, basketball, cheerleading or football. Expose them to other activities like martial arts or aerobics. And don’t forget, fun activities like dancing, jumping rope and playing Frisbee burn calories, too!