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Feature Articles—Child Care


School-age children and physical activity

Amy Halliburton, former Graduate Research Assistant, Human Development and Family Studies & Sara Gable, Ph.D., State Specialist & Associate Professor, University of Missouri Extension


Between the ages of 6 and 11, children experience many physical changes. Children's arm and leg coordination increases, their ability to use their fingers and hands for crafts and writing improves, and their interest in games with rules and organized sports grows. Unfortunately, many of today's youth do not get enough exercise. Did you know that...


  • 9 out of 10 parents believe their children are physically fit, but in reality only 1 in 3 children are?
  • 63% of children are physically inactive by the time they are in high school?
  • 20% of the average child's waking hours are spent watching television?
  • Children who are physically active experience fewer chronic health problems than sedentary children?
  • Physically active children have higher self-confidence and better self-images?

Parents, teachers and fitness professionals all have a role to play in promoting physical fitness among children. However, the parents' role is the most important. Children model their parents' behavior, so parents must be physically active too. So, what can parents do to promote physical activity among their children?

  • Plan family exercise activities so that parents and children can exercise together and have fun! For example:
    • take walks (in the mall, at the zoo, with the family pet)
    • go on bike rides and nature hikes
    • run races
    • jump rope
    • play games
    • go swimming in the summer and sledding in the winter
    • create an obstacle course
  • Make sure family activities are fun, not overly competitive. Give children lots of praise and reinforcement.
  • Let children help plan family activities. They will feel more invested in the activity and will likely enjoy it more. When physical activity is fun, children are more likely to become active and stay active.
  • Because children's bones and muscles are still developing during the elementary school years, be sure that fitness activities include time for stretching.
  • Always remember to take safety precautions such as wearing a helmet when biking and putting on sunscreen when swimming in the summer sun.
  • If television viewing is a concern, have children earn their television time using this simple equation: 1 hour of reading/studying = hour TV or 1 hour of active play = hour TV


Have fun, and get fit as a family!



American Council on Exercise,

Fitness for Youth, University of Michigan


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Last update: Tuesday, September 30, 2014