How Much Physical Activity and Sleep Do Children and Teens Need?

Physical Activity Recommendations

Kids running (istock_000016888744xsmall.jpg)

  • Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

  • The activity should be age-appropriate and fun, and kids don’t need to fit it all in at once: They can add up physical activity throughout the day, in short bursts of 10 minutes or longer.

  • Children need to spend most of that hour in moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity—that is, activity that causes an increase in breathing and heart rate. Make sure children get vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on at least three days of the week.

  • Include muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities on at least three days of the week.

Source: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2008

Sleep Recommendations

1–3 years old: 12 to 14 hours a night

3–5 years old: 11 to 13 hours a night

5–12 years old: 10 to 11 hours a night

Adolescents: 8.5 to 9.25 hours a night

Source: National Sleep Foundation, Children and Sleep, Teens and Sleep

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The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.