How long should children up to five years of age be exercised?
How long should children up to five years of age be exercised?

Exercise is crucial for children, even at a very young age. It helps in their physical, mental, and emotional development. But how much exercise is enough for kids under five?

Benefits of Exercise for Children Under Five

Physical Development

Exercise helps in building strong bones and muscles. For toddlers and preschoolers, physical activity is essential for developing motor skills and overall physical health.

Cognitive Growth

Active play is not just about physical strength; it also stimulates brain development. Activities that involve movement can improve cognitive functions like memory and problem-solving skills.

Emotional Well-being

Physical activity helps young children manage emotions. It can reduce stress, anxiety, and even improve mood.

Recommended Exercise Duration

Infants (0-12 Months)

Tummy Time

For infants, the main form of exercise is tummy time. It's recommended to start with 3-5 minutes of tummy time several times a day, gradually increasing as the baby grows.

Encouraging Movement

Parents should encourage their infants to reach, push, and pull themselves around. Simple activities like these can greatly contribute to their physical development.

Toddlers (1-3 Years)

Active Play

Toddlers should engage in at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity daily, along with several hours of unstructured physical play throughout the day. This can include playing with balls, running, climbing, and dancing.

Variety of Activities

Introduce a variety of activities to keep them engaged and to develop different motor skills. Activities like playing in the park, riding a tricycle, or simple games like hide and seek are excellent choices.

Preschoolers (3-5 Years)

Daily Physical Activity

Preschoolers need about 60 minutes of structured physical activity and 60 minutes of unstructured play each day. They should not be inactive for more than an hour at a time, except when sleeping.

Incorporating Exercise into Daily Routine

Incorporate physical activity into their daily routine. This can be through walking, dancing, swimming, or playing sports. The goal is to make exercise a fun and integral part of their day.

Types of Exercises for Young Children

Indoor Activities


Dancing to music is a fun way to get children moving. It helps with coordination and rhythm.

Indoor Obstacle Course

Create a simple obstacle course using pillows, chairs, and toys. This can improve their motor skills and keep them entertained.

Outdoor Activities

Playground Play

Playing at a playground provides excellent physical activity. Climbing, swinging, and sliding are great for muscle development.

Nature Walks

Taking a walk in nature can be a great way to get exercise while also exploring and learning about the environment.

Balancing Screen Time and Physical Activity

Limiting Screen Time

For children under five, screen time should be limited to no more than one hour per day. Encouraging active play instead of passive screen time is crucial for their development.

Active Screen Time

If children are using screens, opt for interactive and educational content that encourages physical movement, like dance-along videos or active games.

Role of Parents and Caregivers

Leading by Example

Children mimic the behavior of adults. By being active themselves, parents can set a positive example for their kids.

Creating a Safe Environment

Ensure that the space where children play is safe and free from hazards. This allows them to explore and be active without risk of injury.

Signs Your Child Needs More Exercise

Restlessness and Hyperactivity

If a child is overly restless or hyperactive, it might be a sign they need more physical activity to burn off excess energy.

Difficulty Sleeping

Regular exercise can help regulate sleep patterns. If a child is having trouble sleeping, more physical activity during the day might help.

Weight Management

Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight. If a child is gaining weight rapidly, increasing their activity level can be beneficial.

Incorporating Exercise into Daily Life

Making Exercise Fun

Turn physical activity into a game. Children are more likely to stay active if they are having fun.

Family Activities

Engage in family activities that involve exercise, like biking, hiking, or playing sports together. This not only promotes physical health but also strengthens family bonds.

Structured Activities

Enroll your child in structured activities like swimming classes, gymnastics, or dance classes. These activities provide regular exercise in a fun and social setting.

Common Myths About Exercise for Young Children

Myth: Young Children Don’t Need Structured Exercise

While free play is important, structured exercise helps in developing specific skills and building healthy habits.

Myth: Exercise Can Be Harmful to Growing Bodies

Properly supervised and age-appropriate exercise is beneficial and essential for healthy growth and development.

Ensuring a Balanced Approach

Combining Different Types of Play

Balance is key. Combine structured and unstructured play, indoor and outdoor activities, and solo and group exercises.

Monitoring Progress

Keep track of your child’s activity levels and make adjustments as needed to ensure they are getting enough exercise.

Encouraging a Lifelong Love of Exercise

Positive Reinforcement

Praise and encourage your child when they are active. Positive reinforcement can help instill a lifelong love of physical activity.

Making It Routine

Incorporate exercise into the daily routine so it becomes a natural and expected part of their day.

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