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Between skyrocketing costs, sport specialization and coaches needing training, youth sports is in the midst of a crisis, according to new data published Wednesday by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the Aspen Institute.

Athletic participation for kids ages 6 through 12 is down almost 8 percent over the last decade, according to SFIA and Aspen data, and children from low-income households are half as likely to play one day’s worth of team sports than children from households earning at least $100,000.

“Sports in America have separated into sport-haves and have-nots,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of Aspen’s Sports & Society program. The group released its research at its annual Project Play Summit on Wednesday in Washington. “All that matters is if kids come from a family that has resources. If you don’t have money, it’s hard to play.”

[In Neiko Primus, the world sees a basketball phenom. His mom sees a kid with only one childhood.]

Almost 45 percent of children ages 6 to 12 played a team sport regularly in 2008, according to Aspen data. Now only about 37 percent of children do.

Experts blame that trend on what they call an “up or out” mentality in youth sports. Travel leagues, ones that can sometimes cost thousands of dollars to join, have crept into increasingly younger age groups, and they take the most talented young athletes for their teams.

The children left behind either grow unsatisfied on regular recreational teams or get the message that the sport isn’t for them, Farrey said.

One of the summit’s main goals is to enable informal play and encourage kids to play more than one sport. Aspen, a nonprofit think tank, introduced a partnership with Major League Baseball, the NBA, Nike and a dozen other industry groups to pursue those strategies.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, the keynote speaker, said he had spoken with the NBA, NFL and NHL commissioners and they agreed, “the best athlete is a kid who played multiple sports.”

But pursuit of a college athletic scholarship has “reshaped” the youth sports landscape, Farrey said, and placed an earlier emphasis on winning and elite skill development that often forces children to select one sport at an early age.

That has pushed hypercompetitive selection processes into younger age groups — some basketball analysts rank the nation’s best 

kindergartners — and ravaged traditional recreational leagues whose purpose is to get kids playing rather than winning games.

That has caused major losses for the “big four” American youth sports: baseball, basketball, soccer and football (both tackle and flag). Those four sports have suffered the most severe losses of any of the 15 team sports SFIA and Aspen surveyed.

The only sports that saw growth over the past eight years were golf, gymnastics, ice hockey and track and field.

Those declines have sent leagues and the nonprofits that support them scrambling to attract kids’ attention — often away from video games — and sweeten the deal for parents who sign their kids up for sports.

“We go out and we have to sell our program whether we charge or not,” said Lawrence Cann, founder of Street Soccer USA, a nonprofit that develops local soccer clubs.

“You can’t stick a kid in right field and he touches the ball once or twice a game,” Farrey said. “That’s not the same level of excitement as you can get on a video game.”

But money, measured in average household income, is the largest indicator of whether a child is going to be physically active or play sports, the data shows.

And whether children are physically active, Farrey said, is another of the largest indicators as to what kind of adult that child will become.

“There’s reams and reams of research on this,” he said. “Kids who are physically active are less likely to be obese. They’re better in the classroom. They go to college. They’re more likely to be active parents. And because of that, their kids are more active.”

sports make up a $15 billion industry, according to a recent Time Magazine cover story, between costs for equipment, uniforms, travel, lodging, registration fees and so much more. And as elite travel teams reach into younger age groups, coaching often becomes privatized, too.

“There’s been this presumption that youth sports are exploding in this country and private clubs and trainers will pick up the slack,” Farrey said. “For kids with resources, they have. But families without resources are getting left behind.”

And those travel teams and private skills coaches can also drive up costs for traditional rec leagues, experts say.

Teams are in a constant fight for practice space, especially in urban areas, and affluent leagues often outbid rec leagues for use of the best fields in the most convenient locations, said former San Antonio mayor Ed Garza, now the president of the Urban Soccer Leadership Academy.

Another of the largest challenges facing youth sports: finding qualified coaches. According to SFIA and Aspen data, seven in 10 youth sports coaches are not trained in six core competencies required to be a qualified coach. Those competencies are general safety and injury prevention, effective motivational techniques, CPR and basic first aid, physical conditioning, concussion management, and sport-specific skills and tactics. At the summit, Aspen described the issue as a public health concern.

There is also barely any diversity in the youth coaching ranks. More than 70 percent of youth coaches for both boys’ and girls’ sports are male. Half of all coaches’ households make at least $100,000 per year.

Farrey said those kinds of trends make sports look like they are for some kids, those with enough money and superior skill, and not everyone. He hopes Aspen’s new coalition of sport organizations will help more kids gain access to fun athletic experiences.

“Success looks like every kid in this country having the opportunity to play sports,” he said, “and develop habits of physical activity for their lifetime.”

Jacob Bogage writes about sports for The Washington Post, where he's worked since 2015.

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Athletes Acceleration - Thu Oct 26, 2017 @ 07:42AM
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Fostering teamwork among any group of individuals is not an easy job. If you were to analyze coaches with successful careers they would tell you they didn’t win on talent alone. Geno Auriemma led the UCONN Huskies basketball team to seven national championships while John Wooden of UCLA secured ten national championships and is known as a genuine leader. Both coaches were shown to be great leaders in the world of college sports but what defines them. They knew and understood every individual on their team while challenging them in the right ways. They established consistent standards of performance and knew how to motivate their team despite personality differences. Most importantly they were not afraid to take risks to support them in their development to become better athletes. These same principles apply when working with younger teams but at a level that fits their stage of development.

Unfortunately many of today’s youth coaches are focused merely on recruiting and playing the most athletically talented. A group that exhibits talent alone doesn’t necessarily correlate with team cohesiveness which is defined as a group of individuals who want to work together to achieve a common goal. A team with strong cohesion also has an emotional bond with one another as result of athletes’ investment to be successful as a unit and not just individually. When looking at top businesses, they are successful as a result of selectively choosing their team based on who works well together. The same applies with youth sports. Although they may not always be trying out for the team each athlete brings a variety of strengths that can benefit the group as a whole. Some of the most enthusiastic and hard workers are not always the most athletic, but know how to keep the energy up. While others who are self-disciplined challenge the team to hold each other accountable. Whether you are a new coach or building off an existing team, here are four simple ways to ensure strong team camaraderie.

Establish Team Rules: This is an essential step that should happen on the first day of practice. It sets a foundation of expectations for the team in order to achieve their goals. Rules should never be created with the coach alone, however there needs to be a baseline that guides athletes in creating their rules. As a coach there are several things to consider including the age of development, importance of autonomy, ownership by the players, modeling, consistency and accountability. If the coach doesn’t follow the rules or the athletes don’t hold each other accountable there is no foundation to work from resulting in poor cohesiveness. How you handle a six year old coming late to practice versus a teenager should look much different in consequences. Each athlete should know what they are responsible for and what they are expected to contribute. In today’s generation young athletes are often involved in multiple activities. The team needs to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not in attendance while recognizing the need for full participation from everyone. Rules should always create a safe and trusting environment for the team.

Create an Environment with Open Communication and Role Clarity: Every coach should know their athletes on an individual level including strengths, areas to develop and goals. Athletes will be more invested in the process when feeling cared about. This will also help in clarifying roles of all members on the team, whether it is on or off the field. There will be young athletes that tend to exhibit more leadership skills. They will lead by example athletically but also by their character. Some players respond better to peer instruction and support rather than from the coach. Others will be highly skilled but may not be self-motivated or disciplined. A great coach will utilize all of these skills to bring a team together and foster an environment of open communication. This includes paying attention to any conflicts and addressing them when they arise. When handled well, they provide further opportunity for growth in skill and character building. Coaches need to empower young athletes to solve problems themselves while teaching conflict resolution skills for the future.

Focus on the Vision: With any successful business or organization there is always a vision and the same applies with sports. Teams can be part of a bigger organization or be a representation of a school. Establishing a vision will set a foundation for the coaches, team and players. An important component of this is setting long-term directional goals. This will define the culture and expectations when building a cohesive team. Within the long-term goals there should be a variation of outcome, process and performance goals. Outcome goals include a number of team wins or hitting a specific time for an event. These will include both team and individual goals that the coach will establish with their players. Performance goals will be viewed as mastering a skill or increasing a percentage and process goals, which are often overlooked, are the behaviors and actions needed in order to accomplish the desired outcome. Every coach wants to be successful but will not reach the desired outcome without understanding the process it takes to get there. A vision statement should clarify the purpose of the team, set a standard of excellence, inspire enthusiasm and be easy to understand. All leaders of any team need to embody this message. If they are not connected and carry out the statement themselves through their daily actions the team will not either and therefore lack a sense of direction.

Foster a Safe and Playful Environment: This may not be a priority for most coaches when it should be. In any organization if the environment is all work and no play than don’t expect big results on desired outcomes. This especially applies to the sports scene with the push for specialization at a younger age and an increase in sport specific clinics guaranteeing bigger, faster, stronger athletes. An important question for coaches to consider is what are the top responsibilities when working with youth? This should not include developing superstar athletes as the overarching goal. Coaches play an intricate role in the teaching process while understanding the developmental needs of their athletes. This doesn’t mean challenging athletes, promoting hard work and teaching skills can’t be fun. However, in order for any athlete to reach their fullest potential they need to stay invested and be allowed ample opportunity for play both on and off the field. This may include incorporating various games into training sessions that also focus on skills. For example tag games are great for working on acceleration and deceleration techniques. Games that include goals such as hitting a set number in juggling, handball and relay races serve as team building exercises. In addition, events should be hosted outside of normal practice times, such as team dinners and other various outings that promote positive social interactions. Coaches who view play as a waste of time are missing several key learning components in building their athletes. These include communication, social skills, a sense of give and take, patience, perseverance and trust. Like adults who juggle numerous tasks the same applies for children and adolescents. They benefit from time away from technology, school and personal lives to engage with others in a playful manner. The end result is a stronger commitment to the team’s mission and mental clarity on the field.

Team cohesion never develops overnight and requires patience in the process. Every coach needs to know their individual athletes before understanding how the team functions as a whole. This will help utilize various personalities and strengths in order to build on areas of growth. It’s important to recognize success, challenge appropriately and take risks when the team has established trust in their leaders. A coach who follows the vision and encourages direct feedback will have better camaraderie which will translate to desired performance outcomes.

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Sports Engine - Thu Oct 26, 2017 @ 07:36AM
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By Dr. Timothy Baghurst, Associate Professor of Health and Human Performance, Oklahoma State University

Is leadership taught or is it something we’re born with?

It’s a tough question, but it’s a little of both. There is no set “leadership” personality type, and leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some children seem to be natural leaders whereas other children seem to be natural followers.

Often these traits are linked with whether they tend to be introverts or extroverts. The extrovert is often the leader and vice versa especially among young children. But this doesn’t mean that if your child is naturally shy he or she can’t be a leader. It also doesn’t mean that if your child is a “natural” leader that they are going to be an effective leader. As most adults know, there are many people in leadership positions who are terrible leaders.

The good news is that leadership skills can be developed. Here are 13 ways to grow your child’s leadership skills.

1) Remember that your child’s personality will change.

Many psychologists suggest that we all have a core personality, but that our experiences also change who we are over time.

Your child may not be a leader right now, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying to build their leadership skills. They just may not be ready yet, or haven’t had an opportunity to show their leadership skills.

2) Don’t ask your child to be a leader in an unfamiliar environment.

Leadership is linked with self-confidence, and your child will be far more likely to lead in a familiar situation than a novel one. Giving your child added responsibilities in a new situation is just going to make them feel pressured and nervous.

Imagine asking your child to be captain in a sport they have never played before. Compare that with giving them a leadership position in an environment where they are considered knowledgeable or experienced.

3) Encourage them to lead even when not the best player.

A common mistake made by coaches and many others is assuming that the best players or performers should be the leaders. This isn’t true. Sometimes the best players are the worst leaders!

4) Let them make decisions for themselves.

We’re all familiar with the helicopter parent who “hovers” over their child. Don’t be that parent! To become a leader, they need to be empowered to make their own choices.

5) Provide decision-making opportunities.

Allow your child the opportunity to make decisions, even simple ones. For more complex decisions, work with them to decide what options are available and the pros and cons of each option.

6) Teach them to be ethical and moral.

Research suggests that people are more willing to be led if the leader is conscientious, agreeable, humble, and shows integrity and gratitude. These are traits that can be taught or encouraged. What follower wouldn’t want to be encouraged, praised, and be treated fairly?

As a parent, set the example at home but also show them examples, ideally in sports, where a leader has demonstrated leadership traits. How can you expect your child to demonstrate leadership skills without seeing them from you as a parent?

7) Give them leadership opportunities at home.

Find ways to build leadership at home by placing your child in positions for leadership and also success (see point 2). It can be things such as cooking a meal or being the leader while playing a board game, for example.

The key is to provide them opportunities to gain experience overseeing or leading others.

8) Encourage academics and reading.

Reading to your child and having your child read to you fosters imagination and creativity. A good leader sometimes needs to find the answer themselves, and if you have not developed that skill in your child, it’s not going to magically happen.

Reading encourages imagination and allows your child to place themselves in the story. It can also help teach values and empathy (see point 6).

9) Let your child fail.

Too often, parents want to jump in and solve a problem for their child when the best thing for them is to let the situation unfold so they can experience failure. Think about it like this: if a child is continually praised, coddled, and protected, what happens when the parent is not there and they have to face reality?

Be supportive during failure, but let your child fail when appropriate, and use it as a teaching moment. Ask your child “What can you learn from this experience so that you don’t make the same mistakes?”

10) Teach perseverance.

A good leader knows that you have to work hard to accomplish your goals and that you just have to keep at it until success is achieved.

11) Teach positivity.

Similar to perseverance, positive thinking can be taught. It requires you to set the example, but also try to reverse negative thinking. “We were horrible compared to that team. They’re far more experienced, older, and bigger.”

It might be true, and your child’s team might have just experienced a thrashing, but help them find something positive from the situation. It may be the encouragement the team gave each other, their team’s scores, or that your child had improved a particular aspect of their game from practice.

12) Choose coaches and teams wisely in youth sports.

Winning isn’t everything, and it’s important to find coaches that support the development of your child over their win-loss record.

Find a coach willing to let all members play, who lets players try different roles, and allows players to grow through their successes and failures.

13) Don’t force it.

Not everyone is or should be a leader. Some prefer to be followers and that’s perfectly okay. It’s important to remember that while you use these points to build leaderships skills in your child, leave it up to them to determine whether they want to lead.

If they don’t, accept that and don’t push the matter. Later in life they may choose to lead and will then need the skills you’ve helped them develop now.

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Sheila Weaver - Thu Jun 25, 2009 @ 04:15AM
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Childhood Obesity

The prevalence of obesity among our nation’s youth has more than doubled in the past 20 years, with close to 5 million youths aged 6 to 17 seriously overweight or obese. The concerns caused by overweight are more than a cosmetic issue. Childhood obesity leads to a variety of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.1 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that 60 percent of overweight 5- to 10-year-olds already have at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as raised blood pressure or insulin levels.2

Many adolescent boys and girls in the United States are currently trying to lose weight (36 and 44 percent, respectively). One-fourth to one-third of dieting adolescents practice unhealthy or even dangerous diets.3 In a study of 5- to 12-year-olds, 45 percent of the girls and 20 percent of the boys reported having been on a diet.4 Cutting calories dramatically is often effective at lowering weight for the short term, but this usually results in overeating or binge eating and regaining of any lost weight. High-protein, low-carbohydrate, and very-low calorie diets are not safe for children or teens.

Instead, children (and adults) merely need to switch to healthy foods. When the diet is built from fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, weight management is much easier, and putting limits on calories is unnecessary. For example, a veggie burger has 0.5 grams of fat, saving 20 grams of fat and 180 calories (compared to hamburger at 21 grams of fat and 444 calories). A homemade bean burrito with lettuce, tomato, and salsa has 2 grams of fat, saving 16 grams of fat and 135 calories (compared to a fast-food chili-cheese burrito with 18 grams of fat and 390 calories). It’s easy to make the switch and well worth the time.

The bottom line is that it is always the right time to adopt a healthful diet. It is important to help all children, regardless of body size, choose a healthy eating style and incorporate fun physical activity into their lives for now and in the future.


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Sheila Weaver - Mon Mar 16, 2009 @ 09:20PM
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Active Children and Adolescents

Regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes health and fitness. Compared to those who are inactive, physically active youth have higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and stronger muscles. They also typically have lower body fatness. Their bones are stronger, and they may have reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Youth who are regularly active also have a better chance of a healthy adulthood. Children and adolescents don't usually develop chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or osteoporosis. However, risk factors for these diseases can begin to develop early in life. Regular physical activity makes it less likely that these risk factors will develop and more likely that children will remain healthy as adults.

Youth can achieve substantial health benefits by doing moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity for periods of time that add up to 60 minutes (1 hour) or more each day. This activity should include aerobic activity as well as age-appropriate muscle- and bone–strengthening activities. Although current science is not complete, it appears that, as with adults, the total amount of physical activity is more important for achieving health benefits than is any one component (frequency, intensity, or duration) or specific mix of activities (aerobic, muscle-strengthening, bone strengthening). Even so, bone-strengthening activities remain especially important for children and young adolescents because the greatest gains in bone mass occur during the years just before and during puberty. In addition, the majority of peak bone mass is obtained by the end of adolescence.

This chapter provides physical activity guidance for children and adolescents aged 6 to 17, and focuses on physical activity beyond baseline activity.

Parents and other adults who work with or care for youth should be familiar with the Guidelines in this chapter. These adults should be aware that, as children become adolescents, they typically reduce their physical activity. Adults play an important role in providing age-appropriate opportunities for physical activity. In doing so, they help lay an important foundation for life-long, health-promoting physical activity. Adults need to encourage active play in children and encourage sustained and structured activity as children grow older.

Key Guidelines for Children and Adolescents

  • Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily.
    • Aerobic: Most of the 60 or more minutes a day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week.
    • Muscle-strengthening: As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
    • Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
  • It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety.

Explaining the Guidelines

Types of Activity

The Guidelines for children and adolescents focus on three types of activity: aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening. Each type has important health benefits.

  • Aerobic activities are those in which young people rhythmically move their large muscles. Running, hopping, skipping, jumping rope, swimming, dancing, and bicycling are all examples of aerobic activities. Aerobic activities increase cardiorespiratory fitness. Children often do activities in short bursts, which may not technically be aerobic activities. However, this document will also use the term aerobic to refer to these brief activities.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities make muscles do more work than usual during activities of daily life. This is called “overload,” and it strengthens the muscles. Muscle-strengthening activities can be unstructured and part of play, such as playing on playground equipment, climbing trees, and playing tug-of-war. Or these activities can be structured, such as lifting weights or working with resistance bands.
  • Bone-strengthening activities produce a force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength. This force is commonly produced by impact with the ground. Running, jumping rope, basketball, tennis, and hopscotch are all examples of bone strengthening activities. As these examples illustrate, bone-strengthening activities can also be aerobic and muscle-strengthening.

How Age Influences Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents should meet the Guidelines by doing activity that is appropriate for their age. Their natural patterns of movement differ from those of adults. For example, children are naturally active in an intermittent way, particularly when they do unstructured active play. During recess and in their free play and games, children use basic aerobic and bone-strengthening activities, such as running, hopping, skipping, and jumping, to develop movement patterns and skills. They alternate brief periods of moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity with brief periods of rest. Any episode of moderate- or vigorous–intensity physical activity, however brief, counts toward the Guidelines.

Children also commonly increase muscle strength through unstructured activities that involve lifting or moving their body weight or working against resistance. Children don't usually do or need formal muscle-strengthening programs, such as lifting weights.

Regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes a healthy body weight and body composition.

As children grow into adolescents, their patterns of physical activity change. They are able to play organized games and sports and are able to sustain longer periods of activity. But they still commonly do intermittent activity, and no period of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity is too short to count toward the Guidelines.

Adolescents may meet the Guidelines by doing free play, structured programs, or both. Structured exercise programs can include aerobic activities, such as playing a sport, and muscle-strengthening activities, such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands, or using body weight for resistance (such as push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups). Muscle-strengthening activities count if they involve a moderate to high level of effort and work the major muscle groups of the body: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

Levels of Intensity for Aerobic Activity

Children and adolescents can meet the Guidelines by doing a combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity aerobic physical activities or by doing only vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activities.

Youth should not do only moderate-intensity activity. It's important to include vigorous-intensity activities because they cause more improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness.

The intensity of aerobic physical activity can be defined on either an absolute or a relative scale. Either scale can be used to monitor the intensity of aerobic physical activity:

  • Absolute intensity is based on the rate of energy expenditure during the activity, without taking into account a person's cardiorespiratory fitness.
  • Relative intensity uses a person's level of cardiorespiratory fitness to assess level of effort.

Relative intensity describes a person's level of effort relative to his or her fitness. As a rule of thumb, on a scale of 0 to 10, where sitting is 0 and the highest level of effort possible is 10, moderate-intensity activity is a 5 or 6. Young people doing moderate-intensity activity will notice that their hearts are beating faster than normal and they are breathing harder than normal. Vigorous-intensity activity is at a level of 7 or 8. Youth doing vigorous-intensity activity will feel their heart beating much faster than normal and they will breathe much harder than normal.

When adults supervise children, they generally can't ascertain a child's heart or breathing rate. But they can observe whether a child is doing an activity which, based on absolute energy expenditure, is considered to be either moderate or vigorous. For example, a child walking briskly to school is doing moderate-intensity activity. A child running on the playground is doing vigorous-intensity activity. The table on page 18 includes examples of activities classified by absolute intensity. It shows that the same activity can be moderate or vigorous intensity, depending on factors such as speed (for example bicycling slowly or fast).

Examples of Moderate- and Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Physical Activities and Muscle- and Bone-Strengthening Activities for Children and Adolescents

Type of Physical ActivityAge Group
Age Group
Moderate–intensity aerobic
  • Active recreation, such as hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading
  • Bicycle riding
  • Brisk walking
  • Active recreation, such as canoeing, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading
  • Brisk walking
  • Bicycle riding (stationary or road bike)
  • Housework and yard work, such as sweeping or pushing a lawn mower
  • Games that require catching and throwing, such as baseball and softball
Vigorous–intensity aerobic
  • Active games involving running and chasing, such as tag
  • Bicycle riding
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts, such as karate
  • Running
  • Sports such as soccer, ice or field hockey, basketball, swimming, tennis
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Active games involving running and chasing, such as flag football
  • Bicycle riding
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts, such as karate
  • Running
  • Sports such as soccer, ice or field hockey, basketball, swimming, tennis
  • Vigorous dancing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Games such as tug-of-war
  • Modified push-ups (with knees on the floor)
  • Resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands
  • Rope or tree climbing
  • Sit-ups (curl-ups or crunches)
  • Swinging on playground equipment/bars
  • Games such as tug-of-war
  • Push-ups and pull-ups
  • Resistance exercises with exercise bands, weight machines, hand-held weights
  • Climbing wall
  • Sit-ups (curl-ups or crunches)
  • Games such as hopscotch
  • Hopping, skipping, jumping
  • Jumping rope
  • Running
  • Sports such as gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, tennis
  • Hopping, skipping, jumping
  • Jumping rope
  • Running
  • Sports such as gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, tennis
Note: Some activities, such as bicycling, can be moderate or vigorous intensity, depending upon level of effort

Physical Activity and Healthy Weight

Regular physical activity in children and adolescents promotes a healthy body weight and body composition.

Exercise training in overweight or obese youth can improve body composition by reducing overall levels of fatness as well as abdominal fatness. Research studies report that fatness can be reduced by regular physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity 3 to 5 times a week, for 30 to 60 minutes.

Meeting the Guidelines

American youth vary in their physical activity participation. Some don't participate at all, others participate in enough activity to meet the Guidelines, and some exceed the Guidelines.

Children and adolescents can meet the Physical Activity Guidelines and become regularly physically active in many ways.

One practical strategy to promote activity in youth is to replace inactivity with activity whenever possible. For example, where appropriate and safe, young people should walk or bicycle to school instead of riding in a car. Rather than just watching sporting events on television, young people should participate in age-appropriate sports or games.

  • Children and adolescents who do not meet the Guidelines should slowly increase their activity in small steps and in ways that they enjoy. A gradual increase in the number of days and the time spent being active will help reduce the risk of injury.
  • Children and adolescents who meet the Guidelines should continue being active on a daily basis and, if appropriate, become even more active. Evidence suggests that even more than 60 minutes of activity every day may provide additional health benefits.
  • Children and adolescents who exceed the Guidelines should maintain their activity level and vary the kinds of activities they do to reduce the risk of overtraining or injury.

Children and adolescents with disabilities are more likely to be inactive than those without disabilities. Youth with disabilities should work with their health-care provider to understand the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them. When possible, children and adolescents with disabilities should meet the Guidelines. When young people are not able to participate in appropriate physical activities to meet the Guidelines, they should be as active as possible and avoid being inactive.

Getting and Staying Active: Real-Life Examples

Children and adolescents can meet the Physical Activity Guidelines and become regularly physically active in many ways. Here are just two examples showing how a child and an adolescent can be physically active for at least 60 minutes each day over the course of a week.

These examples illustrate that even though the activity patterns are different, each young person is meeting the Guidelines by getting the equivalent of at least 60 minutes or more of aerobic activity each day that is at least moderate intensity. Both are also doing vigorous-intensity, muscle-strengthening, and bone strengthening activities on at least 3 days a week.

Harold: A 7-Year-Old Child

Harold participates in many types of physical activities in many places. For example, during physical education class, he jumps rope and does gymnastics and sit-ups. During recess, he plays on the playground—often by doing activities that require running and climbing. He also likes to play soccer with his friends and family. When Harold gets home from school, he likes to engage in active play (playing tag) and ride his bicycle with his friends and family.

Harold gets 60 minutes of physical activity each day that is at least moderate intensity. He participates in the following activities each day:

Monday: Walks to and from school (20 minutes), plays actively with family (20 minutes), jumps rope (10 minutes), does gymnastics (10 minutes).

Tuesday: Walks to and from school (20 minutes), plays on playground (25 minutes), climbs on playground equipment (15 minutes).

Wednesday: Walks to and from school (20 minutes), plays actively with friends (25 minutes), jumps rope (10 minutes), runs (5 minutes), does sit-ups (2 minutes).

Thursday: Plays actively with family (30 minutes), plays soccer (30 minutes).

Friday: Walks to and from school (20 minutes), plays actively with friends (25 minutes), bicycles (15 minutes).

Saturday: Plays on playground (30 minutes), climbs on playground equipment (15 minutes), bicycles (15 minutes).

Sunday: Plays on playground (10 minutes), plays soccer (40 minutes), plays tag with family (10 minutes).

Harold meets the Guidelines by doing vigorous–intensity aerobic activities, bone-strengthening activities, and muscle-strengthening activities on at least 3 days of the week:

  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities 6 times during the week: jumping rope (Monday and Wednesday), running (Wednesday), soccer (Thursday and Sunday), playing tag (Sunday);
  • Bone-strengthening activities 6 times during the week: jumping rope (Monday and Wednesday), running (Wednesday), soccer (Thursday and Sunday), playing tag (Sunday); and
  • Muscle-strengthening activities 4 times during the week: gymnastics (Monday), climbing on playground equipment (Tuesday and Saturday), sit-ups (Wednesday).

Maria: A 16-Year-Old Adolescent

Maria participates in many types of physical activities in many places. For example, during physical education class, she plays tennis and does sit-ups and push-ups. She also likes to play basketball at the YMCA, do yoga, and go dancing with friends. Maria likes to take her dog on walks and hikes.

Maria gets 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity that is at least moderate intensity. She participates in the following activities each day:

Monday: Walks dog (10 minutes), plays basketball at YMCA (50 minutes).

Tuesday: Walks dog (10 minutes), plays tennis (30 minutes), does sit-ups and push-ups (5 minutes), walks briskly with friends (15 minutes).

Wednesday: Walks dog (10 minutes), plays basketball at YMCA (50 minutes).

Thursday: Walks dog (10 minutes), plays tennis (30 minutes), does sit-ups and push-ups (5 minutes), plays with children at the park while babysitting (15 minutes).

Friday: Plays Frisbee® in park (45 minutes), mows lawn (30 minutes).

Saturday: Goes dancing with friends (60 minutes), does yoga (30 minutes).

Sunday: Hikes (60 minutes).

Maria meets the Guidelines by doing vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, bone-strengthening activities, and muscle-strengthening activities on at least 3 days of the week:

  • Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities 4 times during the week: basketball (Monday and Wednesday), dancing (Saturday), hiking (Sunday);
  • Bone-strengthening activities 4 times during the week: basketball (Monday and Wednesday), dancing (Saturday), hiking (Sunday); and
  • Muscle-strengthening activities 3 times during the week: sit-ups and push-ups (Tuesday and Thursday), yoga (Saturday).
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