Physical activity guidelines for children and young people

How much physical activity do children and young people aged 5 to 18 need to do to keep healthy?

To stay healthy or to improve health, young people need to do three types of physical activity each week: aerobic exercise and exercises to strengthen bones and muscles.

The amount of physical activity you need to do each week is determined by your age. Click on the links below for the recommendations for other age groups:

Guidelines for 5- to 18-year-olds 

To maintain a basic level of health, children and young people aged 5 to 18 need to do:

Many vigorous activities can help you build strong muscles and bones, including anything involving running and jumping, such as gymnastics, martial arts and football.

Children and young people should reduce the time they spend sitting watching TV, playing computer games and travelling by car when they could walk or cycle instead.

Find out why sitting is bad for your health

What counts as moderate activity?

Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most young people include:

  • walking to school
  • playing in the playground
  • riding a scooter
  • skateboarding
  • rollerblading
  • walking the dog
  • cycling on level ground or ground with few hills

Moderate activity raises your heart rate and makes you sweat. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate level is if you can still talk, but you can't sing the words to a song.

Back to top

What counts as vigorous activity?

Vigorous activity is linked to better general health, stronger bones and muscles, as well as higher levels of self-esteem.

There is good evidence vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity. A rule of thumb is that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of moderate activity.

There's currently no recommendation on how long a session of vigorous activity should be for this age group.

Examples of activities that require vigorous effort for most young people include:

  • playing chase
  • energetic dancing
  • swimming
  • running
  • gymnastics
  • football
  • rugby
  • martial arts, such as karate
  • cycling fast or on hilly terrain

Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

Back to top

What activities strengthen muscles?

Muscle strength is necessary for daily activities, and to build and maintain strong bones, regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, and help maintain a healthy weight.

For young people, muscle-strengthening activities are those that require them to lift their own body weight or work against a resistance, such as lifting a weight.

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities suitable for children include:

  • games such as tug of war
  • swinging on playground equipment bars
  • gymnastics
  • rope or tree climbing
  • sit-ups, press-ups etc
  • gymnastics
  • football
  • rugby
  • tennis

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities suitable for young people include:

  • sit-ups, press-ups etc
  • gymnastics
  • resistance exercises with exercise bands, weight machines or hand-held weights
  • rock climbing
  • football
  • basketball
  • tennis

Children and young people should take part in activities that are appropriate for their age and stage of development.

Back to top

What activities strengthen bones?

Bone-strengthening activities produce an impact on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength.

Examples of bone-strengthening activities for children include:

  • activities that require children to lift their body weight or work against a resistance
  • jumping and climbing activities, combined with the use of playground equipment and toys
  • games such as hopscotch
  • skipping with a rope
  • walking
  • running
  • gymnastics
  • dance
  • football
  • basketball
  • martial arts

Examples of bone-strengthening activities for young people include:

  • dance
  • aerobics
  • weight training
  • running
  • gymnastics
  • football
  • rugby
  • netball
  • hockey
  • badminton
  • tennis
  • skipping with a rope
  • martial arts

Children and young people should take part in activities that are appropriate for their age and stage of development.

Back to top

Download a factsheet on physical activity guidelines for children and young people (5 to 18 years) (PDF, 554kb).

For a summary on the health benefits of being more active, check out this Department of Health infographic for children and young people (PDF, 86kb).

Page last reviewed: 11/07/2015

Next review due: 11/07/2017

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 465 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Active ways to get to school

There are numerous ways for children to get to school that are both fun and healthy. This video documents some of the modes of travel that can help children grow strong bones, maintain a healthy weight, and discover the world around them.

Media last reviewed: 15/10/2014

Next review due: 15/10/2016

Find the sport that's right for you

Find out which sport you're best suited to, with this short psychological and aptitude test.

Find your sport

Services near you

Find addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you

Strength and Flex

Download our Strength and flexibility podcast series and get a free personal trainer

Get running with Couch to 5K

Our C25K plan is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks

Get active your way

Ideas for busy mums and dads, families, young people, office workers and older adults to build activity into their life

Why sitting too much is bad for your health

Evidence suggests sitting for too long is bad for you, no matter how much exercise you do

Health and fitness

Boost your health and fitness with fun and practical ideas to get active and improve your general health