A Child’s Recommended Amount of Exercise By Age

As an adult, we often associate exercise with the gym, or with any other deliberate movements we make, such as yoga, running or workouts; but essentially, any kind of physical activity is a form of exercise.

For children, this is woven throughout their day-to-day activities. They will often run around on their breaks, throughout their P.E. classes, during their after school clubs and at home.

Our prep school in Devon values our students’ mental and physical well-being. It has been proven that they are integral and work as fuel for your child’s learning, helping them to reach their full potential.

St Peter's Prep students playing netball

How Much Physical Activity Should Children Get?

St Peter's Prep infographic on A Child’s Recommended Amount of Exercise By Age

Naturally, this will depend on the age of the child. There are two types of exercise that children require each week:

  • Aerobic exercise: cardiovascular conditioning such as swimming, running or cycling.
  • Exercises to strengthen their muscles and bones.

St Peter's Prep students jumping on the court

Children Under 5

From babies to children, we will explore how to help support your child to be as active as possible and offer a guideline for how active they should be.


Babies should be active throughout the day in a variety of ways. Before they can crawl, they should be encouraged to:

  • Reach
  • Pull
  • Push
  • Move their heads, body and limbs

They should gain around 30 minutes of tummy time spread across their waking hours.

When your baby can crawl, they should be encouraged to be as active as possible while under supervision.

Toddlers Aged 1 – 2

It is recommended that a toddler should be active for at least 3 hours a day. Naturally, this should be spread throughout the day while supervised.

Their 3 hours of exercise can include the following activities:

  • Standing
  • Moving around
  • Rolling
  • Playing
  • Skipping
  • Hopping
  • Running
  • Jumping

A great way to encourage toddlers to be active is to use activities that involve:

  • Climbing frames
  • Riding bikes
  • Playing in water
  • Chasing games
  • Ball games

Pre-Schoolers aged 3 – 4

Pre-schoolers should aim to spend 3 hours doing physical activities throughout the day. 1 hour of their physical activity should be of moderate-to-vigorous intensity.

Unless asleep, it is recommended that children under five should not be inactive for long periods of time. Prolonged inactive episodes, such as watching TV or being strapped in a pushchair, can be detrimental to a child’s health and development.

St Peter's Prep student playing hockey

Children and Young People aged 5 to 18

Across the week, children and young people should aim to average around 60 minutes of their day doing moderate-intensity exercises.

They should also aim to take part in an array of intensities and sports throughout the week to develop muscles, bones and movement skills.

Their time spent being inactive, such as sitting or lying down, must be reduced; this can simply be done by breaking up long periods of inactivity or by spreading their physical activity over the day.

St Peter's Prep students on the football field

What is Moderate Activity?

Moderate activity is defined by exercise that will raise your heart rate, making you breathe faster and feel warmer.

Examples of moderate activity include:

  • Walking the dog or to school
  • Playing in the playground
  • Riding a scooter
  • Skateboarding
  • Cycling

Bone and Muscle Strengthening Activities

Bone and muscle strengthening exercises for children include:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Skipping with a rope
  • Gymnastics
  • Climbing
  • Basketball
  • Dance
  • Football

Bone and muscle strengthening exercises for young people include:

  • Gymnastics
  • Rock climbing
  • Football
  • Tennis
  • Dance
  • Aerobics
  • Hockey
  • Martial arts

We hope this article has helped you to gain an insight into how much exercise is recommended for your child! Here at St Peter’s Prep, we provide a traditional and progressive educational experience to support them to reach their full potential.

To discover more about our educational opportunities at St Peter’s Prep, please contact Rachel Elliott, Director of Admissions & Marketing, on 01395 280335 or email rachel.elliott@stpetersprepschool.co.uk

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