Healthy exercise for children

Boys playing toy cricket outdoors

We want our children to be as healthy and happy as possible. There’s plenty of simple things you can do to help and encourage them to keep active.

Activity tips

  • Ask children what activities they enjoy. Encourage them to follow their interests, and make activity fun – make a kite and fly it together, teach them to run, skip or use a hula hoop.
  • Encourage your child to spend more time outdoors and invite friends over to play.
  • Play active games with your child both indoors and out. For example, chasing, hide and seek, hopscotch and skipping.
  • Encourage them to walk or to do activities with friends. If they are too young to go alone, go along with them.
  • Provide them with a box of sports equipment, such as balls, skipping ropes, tennis rackets, frisbees and roller skates.
  • Do some regular activity together as a family to help your children develop a positive attitude towards physical activity.
  • Talk with other parents locally and arrange games in a nearby park. Take it in turns to supervise them.
  • Praise and encourage children when they are taking part in an activity – particularly if they are learning a new skill. Keep feedback positive – and don't push too hard. If they enjoy the experience they'll keep taking part.
  • Be a role model. Children learn by watching what parents do so show your child you enjoy and value activity by taking part yourself. Even simple things like walking instead of using the car can have a big influence.

Get tips on how to stay active as a family.

Why is physical activity important?

Physical activity is good for your child’s mind, body and soul. Allowing them to live an inactive lifestyle could have long-term implications for their health. Being active:

  • helps keep your child's heart healthy and develop strong muscles and bones
  • helps reduce the risk of some chronic diseases in later life
  • reduces body fat and helps them feel good about themselves
  • improves their social and moral development and reduces anxiety and stress
  • increases their opportunities to mix with other children and make friends.

How much physical activity should my child do?

Children and young people should aim to do 60 minutes of physical activity every day. This can include walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, active play or other sports.

Kids can build up their muscular strength, flexibility and bone health through climbing, skipping, jumping or gymnastics at least twice a week, too.

They don't need to do the full hour of exercise all at once – they can split it over the course of the day if they need to. It doesn't matter how they do it as long as they get their full hour in.

You can walk with them to and from school, encourage them to enjoy active play with friends at break times, and arrange for them to play sport or take part in structured exercise outside school.

If your child has a congenital heart condition, they should always consult their cardiologist before they start any new exercise regime or activity.