How much exercise do children and young people need?
Amounts of suggested physical activity varies at different ages
The Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years recommendations are as follows:
- Infants (birth to one year): 30 minutes of supervised interactive floor-based play including tummy time, reaching and grasping, pushing and pulling and crawling.
- Toddlers (1-2 years): at least 180 minutes a day, including energetic play such as running and jumping.
- Pre-schoolers (3-5 years): at least 180 minutes a day of which 60 minutes is energetic play such as running, jumping and kicking and throwing.
- Children (5-12 years) and young people (13-17 years): at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day.
It’s concerning that the number of children and young people meeting these guidelines decreases with age, particularly as mental illnesses often emerge in late childhood and early adolescence. The percentage of children meeting current guidelines is:
- 61% of two to five-year-olds
- 26% of five to 12-year-olds
- 7.9% of 13 to 17-year-olds.
What can your service or school do to promote exercise?
Early learning services and schools often face a range of challenges to integrating formal exercise programs into the curriculum; it takes specialist teachers, sports equipment and facilities.
But there are many ways you can engage children and young people in physical activity in your daily learning.
- Hold outdoor or walking classes where a lesson is conducted ‘on the move’.
- Establish a ‘bush kinder/class’ session or incorporate walks to local parks or nature reserves as part of your early learning program.
- Include outdoor activities in subjects such as maths, science or geography.
- Try standing lessons to break up extended sitting time.
- Provide bats and balls and other play equipment during lunch and recess.
- Have play spaces and play equipment to encourage physical activity.
- See if it’s possible to partner with local sport and recreation clubs and local councils so you can use their equipment and facilities. Perhaps you could apply for a physical activity grant to fund a project.
- Provide safe and secure bike parking.
- Promote active travel. Encourage children and young people to walk as much as possible and welcome active travel ideas such as a walking school bus to your local community.
Some children and young people dislike competitive sport and anxiety about competition may worsen existing mental health issues.
You could consider offering non-competitive physical activities such as yoga and Pilates as an alternative. Or offer activities where the focus is on participation, not competition. It’s more important for children and young people to learn that being active is fun rather than focusing on winning.
Regular physical activity is great for children and young people’s health development and helps prevent and relieve mental illness symptoms.
Connect through strong relationships.
Assist families to foster mental health and wellbeing.