Exercise for Children: aerobic and resistance training

Exercise is a stimulus for good health, strong bones, the development of muscle strength, fitness and co-ordination.

Aerobic Exercise

  • This is a form of exercise that is sustainable for longer periods sometimes referred to as 'cardio'.  Examples are walking, running, cycling, and swimming.

Moderate Aerobic activity: raises your heart rate and makes you sweat.  But you can still talk and even sing!

Vigorous Aerobic activity: raises the heart rate and you feel out of breath- you will not be able to sing.


The UK guidelines for children age 5-18:

  1. All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.
  2. Vigorous intensity activities, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, should be incorporated at least three days a week.
  3. All children* and young people should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.

*Individual physical and mental capabilities should be considered when interpreting the guidelines.


Benefits of Aerobic exercise:

  • Healthy heart and lungs
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Improved mood and well-being
  • Maintain healthy body weight
  • Feel happier
  • Reduces inflamamtion
  • Improves insulin sensitivity

Resistance Exercise:

  • This is when we move our body against a resistance such our own body weight, an elastic band, or while lifting a weight.

Children age 7-18 should participate in Resistance Training programmes at least twice weekly.
— International consensus statement on Youth resistance training, 2014

Benefits of Resistance exercises:

Health benefits:

  • Healthy heart and lungs.
  • Reduces body fat.
  • Reduces diabetes, as muscle becomes more sensitive to insulin
  • Improved bone health.
  • Reduced back pain (Auvinen et al., 2008).
  • Better health later in life.
  • Improved social and self- confidence.
  • Improved co-ordination and core strength later in life.

Physical benefits:

  • Improved strength and jumping ability.
  • Improved co-ordination.
  • Improved motor skills.
  • Reduced injury rates while playing other sports.
  • More likely to exercise later in life.


This is an example of a resistance training programme for an Adolescent (Age 12-18 for girls, 14-18 for boys) with no prior training experience. It is called Integrative Neuromuscular Training (INT).

Used with permission from Dr Greg Myer.  Taken from ' How young is too young to train' (Myers et al 2013).


Resistance exercise for Children age 7-12

The NHS choices website recommend

  • Push-ups
  • Press-ups
  • Gymnastics
  • Resistance exercises with exercise bands, weight machines or hand-held weights
  • Rock climbing
The Push-ups, press-ups and resistance exercises need to be supervised to ensure correct technique and suitability for the child’s training age.

More information on the 'window of nueromuscular' development is discussed in my blog post " does weight training in children stunt growth?".



(DHSSPS), D. O. H. A. S. S. A. P. S. 2011. Start Active, Stay Active: A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers

AUVINEN, J., TAMMELIN, T., TAIMELA, S., ZITTING, P. & KARPPINEN, J. 2008. Associations of physical activity and inactivity with low back pain in adolescents. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 18, 188-94.

CAREY, N. 2012. The Epigenetics Revolution: How modern biology is rewriting our understanding of genetics, disease and inheritance. Icon Books Ltd.

FAIGENBAUM, A. D., MILLIKEN, L. A., LOUD, R. L., BURAK, B. T., DOHERTY, C. L. & WESTCOTT, W. L. 2002. Comparison of 1 and 2 days per week of strength training in children. Res Q Exerc Sport, 73, 416-24.

LIPNOWSKI, S. & LEBLANC, C. 2012. Healthy active living:Physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents. Canadian Paediatric Society, Healthy active living and sports medicine committee, 17, 209-10.

LLOYD, R. S., FAIGENBAUM, A. D., STONE, M. H., OLIVER, J. L., JEFFREYS, I., MOODY, J. A., BREWER, C., PIERCE, K. C., MCCAMBRIDGE, T. M., HOWARD, R., HERRINGTON, L., HAINLINE, B., MICHELI, L. J., JAQUES, R., KRAEMER, W. J., MCBRIDE, M. G., BEST, T. M., CHU, D. A., ALVAR, B. A. & MYER, G. D. 2014. Position statement on youth resistance training: the 2014 International Consensus. Br J Sports Med, 48, 498-505.

MYER, G. D., FAIGENBAUM, A. D., EDWARDS, N. M., CLARK, J. F., BEST, T. M. & SALLIS, R. E. 2015. Sixty minutes of what? A developing brain perspective for activating children with an integrative exercise approach. Br J Sports Med, 49, 1510-6.

MYER, G. D., LLOYD, R. S., BRENT, J. L. & FAIGENBAUM, A. D. 2013. How young is too Young to Start Training? HEALTH & FITNESS JOURNAL, 17, 14-23.