top of page

Physical Activity for Children : A Nutrition Guidance

Physical activity is essential for healthy growth and development. Children naturally move and physically active according to their age, physical and emotional development. Children also need to be physically active to achieve optimal growth as the physical activity will balancing the energy input from the food and help the nutrients to be optimally utilized by the body. Physical activity give many benefits for children’s health, includes strong bones and muscles, healthy heart, lungs and blood vessels, and prevent obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and malignancies later in life. Physical activities improved children’s coordination, balance, posture and flexibility, social interaction and cognitive development. Physical activities also great for helping children to be happy and confidence, relaxed and sleep well, concentrate better at school, share, take turns, cooperate, get along with others and make friends easily. Early physical activities habits will stay into adulthood.

Guidelines on children physical activity by age

Children under two years old should have at least 60 minutes of fun and moderate intensity physical activity daily and the older children at least three hours daily, with activity spread across the day. Children can do it in small blocks of time throughout the day.

Children less than 1 year old should have some physical activity such as floor play, sit, reach and squeeze toys, rolling and crawling several times each day. We can stimulate the children by putting interesting toys in front of them, or play along with them. Babies need at least 30 minutes of tummy time in adult supervision. Give attention and help babies to hold their head and neck if necessary. Always make sure the environment for playing is secure.

Children aged more than 1 years old that can already walk have more variation of physical activity such as the more energetic play like jumping, climbing, running or twirling. We can add more stimulation with music so children can move around according to the rhythm. Teach the children to play ball by catch, throw and kicking. Push and pull plays like train games will help children in understanding about space awareness.

Children aged 5–18 years should have minimum one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily and should include activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least three days a week. Moderate physical activities are about as intense as a quick walk that gets children gently huffing and puffing, while vigorous physical activity gets children huffing and puffing a lot, also sweating such as running games of riding a bike fast. Activities that make muscles work more than normal and put extra forces on bones like jumping, running, climbing and lifting will strengthen muscles and bones. Moderate and vigorous physical activities often help to build muscles and bones.

Types of Physical activity for children

Physical activity isn’t necessarily ‘exercise’.

Your child doesn’t have to play an organised sport or do push-ups to benefit from moving. Opportunities for free outdoor physical activity are just as valuable. It does help, though, if you make daily plans for when and where your child can be active.

Simple physical activities can include:

• going for walks and walking or riding bicycle to child care, school or a friend’s house

• spending time in places like playgrounds

• playing near your home or at the homes of friends or family, or in parklands or shallow water at the beach or a river

• playing ‘chasey’, ‘keepings off’, one-on-one soccer, basketball, touch football, or netball in the backyard or park

• dancing and skipping around your home, jumping in puddles, flying kites and other activities when it’s rain or wet outside

The Relationship between Physical Activity and Nutrition

The amount of physical activities will affect nutritional status and overall health. In turn, diet and nutritional status can influence physical fitness. Nutrients act as the fuel for physical activity. The right combination of the energy-yielding nutrients such as carbohydrate, fat and protein (along with adequate micronutrients and water) will enhance the body performance. Less physical activity increases risk of overweight and obesity. In children, nutrients also needed for growth and development.