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Written by: Anne Hogan

Summer break is almost over, and school is about to start again. While our kids focus on their studies, squeezing in the recommended daily physical activity can be difficult. Despite this challenge, there are several ways that parents and caregivers can encourage their kids to exercise every day.

How Much Exercise Do Kids Need?

According to the CDC, children 3-5 years old should be active throughout the day in their play and activities. Older children and adolescents should exercise for at least 60 minutes daily, with vigorous, muscle-strengthening activities at least three times per week (CDC, 2022a).

Fitting in Fitness

Getting enough exercise can be tough for busy kids, especially if they do not have recess or required physical activity during school. However, there are various ways parents and caregivers can encourage exercise. These include:

  • Join a team: Enroll kids in a sport or after-school activity they like to encourage daily movement.
  • Use the Buddy System: Arranging regular play time with friends can encourage children to be more active, especially for younger children (Pekmezi et al., 2023).
  • Be prepared: provide your children with equipment that encourages play, such as balls and bikes, as well as protective gear, like helmets (CDC, 2022c).
  • Set a good example: Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your own life, and let your kids see you enjoying the benefits! (CDC, 2022c).
  • Family Fun: Go on walks, visit playgrounds, or play interactive games as a family for fun after school (CDC, 2022c).
  • Forget the Electronics: Place limits or parental restrictions on recreational screen time when your child is home to encourage them to pursue other activities (Pekmezi et al., 2023).

Visit the USDA and CDC Websites for more information on exercise and fitnesshow to get your kids active, and overcoming the challenges of incorporating physical activity into everyday life.


Exercise and physical fitness are important for children and adolescents – it helps with proper growth and development, is good for the heart, and even improves academic performance (CDC, 2022b). Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in encouraging kids to be active. They can do so by supporting their child’s activities, modeling desired behaviors, and exercising as a family (Su et al., 2022). Establishing these good exercise habits during childhood will teach children how to lead a healthy lifestyle in the future.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022a, June 3). How much physical activity do children need?. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022b, July 14). Why should people be active?. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022c, August 17). Making physical activity a part of a child’s life. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pekmezi, D., Trinh, L., Ehlers, D., & Moreno, J. (2023). Lazy Days of Summer: How to keep children active all year long: SBM. Society of Behavioral Medicine.,e.g.%2C%20screen%20time)%20increases

Su, D. L., Tang, T. C., Chung, J. S., Lee, A. S., Capio, C. M., & Chan, D. K. (2022). Parental influence on child and adolescent physical activity level: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(24), 16861.

Anne Hogan is a Graduate Student in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.