Special Populations

Children and Youth

What are the current physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents?

Children and adolescents aged 6–17 years should accumulate 1 hour or more of physical activity daily. The 1 hour of activity should be mostly aerobic but should also include muscle- strengthening and bone-strengthening activities. Youth should include vigorous-intensity activity in this 1 hour on at least 3 days a week. They should also do muscle-strengthening activities on at least 3 days and bone-strengthening activities on at least 3 days a week. It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, enjoyable, and offer variety. The Guidelines list a number of examples of each type of activity for children and adolescents.

What Can I Do as a Parent or Guardian to Help Prevent Childhood Overweight and Obesity?

To help your child maintain a healthy weight, balance the calories your child consumes from foods and beverages with the calories your child uses through physical activity and normal growth.

Remember that the goal for overweight and obese children and teens is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Children and teens should NOT be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care provider.

One part of balancing calories is to eat foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. You can help children learn to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, looking for ways to make favorite dishes healthier, and reducing calorie-rich temptations.

Another part of balancing calories is to engage in an appropriate amount of physical activity and avoid too much sedentary time. Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily. Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you.
In addition to encouraging physical activity, help children avoid too much sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time your children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than 2 hours per day. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television viewing for children age 2 or younger. Instead, encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity


Persons with Disabilities

Is physical activity recommended for persons with disabilities?

Children, adolescents, adults, and older adults with disabilities should meet the Guidelines when possible and should avoid inactivity because physical activity offers many health benefits. When persons with disabilities are not able to meet the Guidelines, they should be as active as possible and avoid being inactive. Persons with disabilities should work with their health care provider to understand the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them.


Older Adults

Are the physical activity guidelines different for older adults?

Many healthy and fit older adults can follow the guidelines for adults. Some adults who are unfit or who have activity-limiting chronic conditions may need to follow the guidelines for older adults.

Most of the guidelines are the same for adults and older adults, but some additional guidelines are just for older adults. These are:

When older adults cannot do 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

Older adults should do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk for falling.

Older adults should use relative intensity to determine their level of effort for physical activity.

Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.


Isn’t it better for older adults to "take it easy" and save their strength?

Regular physical activity is very important to the health and abilities of older people. In fact, studies show that "taking it easy" is risky. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they’ve aged. It’s usually because they’re not active. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.