Physical Activity Recommendations for Children and Youth (2-18 years) (ACSM 2015)


Did you know:

  1. Children must take part in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per day to remain healthy. This means activities which increase sweating, breathing and heart rate.
  2. The focus of these activities should be on developing fundamental movement skills (FMS) but muscle-strengthening, flexibility and bone-strengthening activities should also be included 3 times a week.
  3. Activities can vary from taking part in sport to a range of other simple activities like walking to school, physical education (PE), free play and dancing.
  4. Activities should be developmentally appropriate (please see some examples below), varied and most importantly fun
  5. Sedentary activities including sitting for long periods of time watching TV or using iPads, phones etc. should be discouraged and limited to < 2 hours per day

Avery D. Faigenbaum. (2015). ACSM Information On…Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents [online]. Available from: [accessed 15 February 2018]


Types of activities:

Fundamental Movement skills:

-FMS are basic body movements which form the foundation for all other, more complex movements. Some of these skills include running, jumping, catching, agility balance and coordination. FMS combined with FSS (fundamental sports skills) forms physical literacy which provides the confidence, competence and motivation to remain active throughout our lives.  A lack of FMS may cause difficulties in participating in a wide range of activities leaving children feeling challenged, tired and even embarrassed. This will also have a follow-on impact affecting an individual’s willingness to stay active as they get older. Therefore, it is essential that FMS are developed from a young age.

-Other benefits of well-developed FMS include: increased fitness, self-esteem, athletic performance, participation in physical activity and lifelong involvement, willingness to take risks and stronger muscles and bones. (Hands 2012)

-Examples of activities which develop FMS include: Jumping rope, animal races, obstacle courses, hopscotch

B P. Hands. 2012. How fundamental are fundamental movement skills? University of Notre Dame Australia [online]. Available from: [accessed 1 March 2018]


Strength activities:

-Strength activities create muscle contraction against a resistance which elicits improvements in strength, anaerobic endurance and increased size of the muscle being worked

-Benefits of strength exercises include improved muscle strength and tone, balance, flexibility, mobility, posture, bone density, strength, self-esteem, prevention of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and depression, decreased risk of injury and pain management. (Victoria State Government 2016)

-Strengthening activities for kids include climbing, jumping, tumbling and gymnastics, and a variety of games. Structured body weight calisthenics (i.e. push-ups, pull-ups) and strength exercises with dumbbells, medicine balls and elastic bands are not recommended before the age of 12.  If done incorrectly or without proper supervision these type of activities can cause injury but also the tedious, structured nature of this type of exercise takes the fun out of physical activity which is the number one goal for kids.

Victoria State Government-Better Health Channel. (2016) . Resistance training – health benefits [online]. Available from: [accessed 1 March 2018]



Aerobic activities:

-Aerobic exercise is a type of physical activity which uses large muscle groups, can be sustained for several minutes and relies on the aerobic system or oxygen for energy. Aerobic exercise puts an increased demand on the heart and lungs (makes the heart beat faster and breathing heavier) which improves cardiorespiratory fitness.

-Benefits of aerobic activity include healthy heart and lungs, weight maintenance, strengthens muscles and bones, improves immunity and detoxifies the body, improves mental health, social skills and improved academic performance (Gongala 2017)

-Examples of aerobic activities include: bicycle riding, walking, running, games, dancing, soccer, and swimming.

Sagari Gongala. (2017). Aerobics for Kids: 10 Benefits And 15 Exercises. Mom Junction [online]. Available from: [accessed 1 March 2018]



Special Considerations for Children and Adolescents (ACSM 2015)

  1. Adult strength and conditioning programs are not appropriate for children due to their ongoing growth and development. The growth plates in their bones cannot tolerate weighted strength and conditioning exercises. However, they can do functional conditioning exercises.
  2. Positive feedback and encouragement in an active lifestyle is essential
  3. Exposure to a variety of physical activities, games and sports is needed to prevent one sided development, injury and player burn out
  4. Correct exercise techniques and skills should be taught by qualified professionals in order to prevent injury
  5. Due to their immature development, youth may have trouble regulating high temperatures caused from the increased demands of exercise therefore it is important to ensure adequate hydration and comfortable environments
  6. Youth with diseases or disabilities require tailored activity programs to meet their specific needs
  7. Adequate nutrition is essential to provide youth with the correct amount of energy and nutrients they need to mature and develop while also being physically active
  8. If 60 minutes of physical activity cannot be achieved daily it is important to gradually increase the amount of time spent active to eventually meet this target

Avery D. Faigenbaum. (2015). ACSM Information On…Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents [online]. Available from: [accessed 15 February 2018]



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