Health Encyclopedia

Strengthening Exercises for Kids

Strengthening exercise is movement that makes muscles and bones stronger. Activities that strengthen muscles make them work harder. These can include pushing, pulling, and climbing. Activities that strengthen bones place weight on them during the activity. These include exercises such as running and jumping. Some activities can help both muscles and bones. For example, hiking and gymnastics can help make both stronger.

Strengthening exercise is important for kids. Stronger muscles can help prevent injury or make it easier to recover from injury. They can help a person keep a good level of body fat. Activities that build bone are especially important for children. Bones get most of their mass before and during puberty.

In general, kids who exercise tend to have:

  • Better heart and lung fitness

  • Better metabolic health

  • Lower levels of body fat

  • Fewer symptoms of depression

  • Better chances of being healthy adults without chronic disease

How much strengthening exercise?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  recommends that kids get 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. They advise that kids ages 6 to 17 should make sure to get strengthening exercise on at least three days a week each for muscles and bones.

Choosing activities best for your child’s age

Age makes a difference. Younger kids don’t need to lift weights to build muscle. Climbing, jumping, and swinging from bars in the playground can help them build strength. As children get older, they tend to have less physical activity. It’s important to help older kids find fun ways to stay active. Help your child pick things that they will enjoy want to stick with. Below are some examples of activities that can suit kids of all ages.

Fun ways to make muscles stronger

For children and adolescents (ages 6 to13):

  • Climbing and swinging on playground equipment

  • Climbing trees

  • Gymnastics

  • Push-ups with knees on the floor

  • Sit-ups

  • Skiing or snowboarding

  • Tug-of-war

For teens (ages 13 to 17):

  • Cheerleading

  • Gymnastics

  • House and yard work

  • Pilates

  • Push-ups and pull-ups

  • Resistance exercises using body weight

  • Resistance exercises with exercise bands

  • Rock climbing

  • Shoveling snow

  • Sit-ups

  • Skiing

  • Squats

  • Swimming

  • Weightlifting

  • Yard work

  • Yoga

Fun ways to make bones stronger

For children and adolescents (ages 6 to 13):

  • Dancing

  • Games that involve running and chasing

  • Gymnastics

  • Hiking

  • Hop scotch

  • Hopping and skipping

  • House and yard work

  • Jumping jacks

  • Jumping rope

  • Running

  • Skiing

  • Sports such as basketball, volleyball, tennis, and soccer

  • Walking

For teens (ages 13 to 17):

  • Aerobic exercise classes

  • Cheerleading

  • Dancing

  • Field hockey

  • Football

  • Gymnastics

  • Hiking

  • House and yard work

  • Jumping rope

  • Lacrosse

  • Running

  • Skiing

  • Sports such as basketball, volleyball, tennis, and soccer

  • Track and field

  • Walking