As adults we all know that exercise and physical activity is good for us. It helps with heart health, mental health and keeps our bodies working. The same goes for kids! That’s why in schools there is structured time for play, lunches, and physical education classes. All to ensure your child is getting their recommended dose of physical activity. In children exercise is even more important as your kids are learning how to move, balance and coordinate. Their brains need practical experience for them to gain the skills they will need in the future. Without regular physical activity they are more at risk for sedentary diseases such as obesity, heart disease, decreased bone density, type 2 diabetes and arthritis. All of which are easily prevented with physical activity.

The World Health Organisation defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.” This can be anything from riding a bike, playing a sport or walking to and from school. The Australian Government Department of Health has outlined the recommended dosage of physical activity for all different age groups. The website will be linked below for you to explore as you wish.

Physical activity guidelines for: Birth to 17 years old

When looking at infants through to school aged children, physical activity happens more through unstructured play than anything else. The goal is for them to build strong bones and muscles, improve their balance and coordination skills through exploration and promote learning and thinking skills.

Birth to 12 months
It is recommended that your child has 30 minutes of tummy time over the course of the day. You should avoid having your chid in a stroller or highchair for longer than 1 hour. Activities such as reading, and craft are advised to foster educational development when not being active. The guidelines recommend no screen time for children of this age.

Toddlers aged 1-2 years old
It is recommended that they should get at least 3 hours of various physical activity over the course of the day. Activities such as running, dancing, climbing are great ways to help your child build those strong bones and muscles. It is recommended that children are not left in a stroller or highchair for longer than 1 hour at a time, with time spent laying down or sitting limited. The guidelines recommend no screen time for children of this age.

Children aged 3-5 years old
It is recommended that they should get at least 3 hours of physical activity over the course of the day. Much like toddlers their activity should be play and exploration-based play. It is recommended that time spent in strollers or chairs are limited to 1 hour at a time and screen time should be limited to 1 hour per day.

Children aged 5-17
It is recommended that children this age partake in at least 60mins of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. At least 3 days per week your child should be doing 60mins of vigorous activity such as netball, basketball, swimming or dancing to help strengthen their bones and muscles. Other good ideas for physical activity include running, climbing, yoga, weights, playground equipment. In these years you should focus on developing your child’s bone and muscle development for their future selves. This requires their bodies to move and experience different loads while their skeletons are growing. Limiting time spent sitting or lying down, screen time should be limited to 2 hours per day. According to the Australian Government Health Department “this does not include screen time needed for school work.”

Building a healthy relationship with exercise during your child’s developmental years sets them up with good habits and physical health in their future. If they see exercise as fun and understand why our bodies need it then they are less likely to experience sedentary diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other sedentary diseases when they are older. My favourite phrase as a physiotherapist is move it or lose it, and during these early years there is so much to gain it’s important they move as much as they can.

Bump Fitness’s Baby Movement Classes are run by a paediatric physiotherapist designed to support gross and fine motor milestones. For the children that enjoy some out of the box exercise, we also run circus classes in Burleigh Heads using silks, lyra and aerial hammocks to help strengthen and develop balance and coordination. For more information about these classes don’t hesitate to reach out at or contact us on 0422 988 033.

Until next time,
Courtney (Physiotherapist)

Physical Activity and Exercise Guidelines for All Australians

World Health Organisation Physical Activity