Physical Activity Guidelines for Children Under 5 Years

How much physical activity do children under 5 years old need to do to keep healthy?

young kids do physical activity with hoopsBeing physically active every day is important for the healthy growth and development of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

For this age group, activity of any intensity should be encouraged, including light activity and more energetic physical activity.

The amount of physical activity you need to do each week is determined by your age. Click on the links below for the recommendations for other age groups:


Babies should be encouraged to be active from birth. Before your baby begins to crawl, encourage them to be physically active by reaching and grasping, pulling and pushing, moving their head, body and limbs during daily routines, and during supervised floor play, including tummy time.

Once babies can move around, encourage them to be as active as possible in a safe, supervised and nurturing play environment. For more ideas, see Keeping kids active.


Children who can walk on their own should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (3 hours). This should be spread throughout the day, indoors or outside.

The 180 minutes can include light activity such as standing up, moving around, rolling and playing, as
well as more energetic activity like skipping, hopping, running and jumping.

Active play, such as using a climbing frame, riding a bike, playing in water, chasing games and ball games, is the best way for this age group to be physically active.

All Children under 5 Years Old

Children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, except when they’re asleep. Watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train or being strapped into a buggy for long periods are not good for a child’s health and development. There’s growing evidence that such behaviour can increase their risk of poor health.

All children under 5 who are overweight can improve their health by meeting the activity guidelines, even if their weight doesn’t change. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, they may need to do additional activity and make changes to their diet.

What counts as light activity for children?
Light activity for children includes a range of activities such as:

  • Standing up
  • Moving around
  • Walking at a slow pace
  • Less energetic play

What counts as energetic activity for children?
Examples of energetic activities suitable for most children who can walk on their own include:

  • Active play (such as hide and seek and stuck in the mud)
  • Fast walking
  • Riding a bike
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Climbing
  • Skipping rope
  • Gymnastics

Energetic activity for children will make kids “huff and puff” and can include organised activities, like dance and gymnastics. Any sort of active play will usually include bursts of energetic activity.


About the Author

NHS Choices ( is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.


2 Responses to “Physical Activity Guidelines for Children Under 5 Years”

  1. Julian Maria says:

    A great helpful blog about physical activity.

    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Hi Julian, apologize the for the delay responding (we were a little short-handed over the holiday), but what a nice comment! Thank you! BTW – we’re making some updates to the site to make sure we provide the most relevant, useful content possible for our readers, so if there’s something in particular that was helpful (or something you’d like to see more of), please let us know! And come visit us again, anytime 🙂

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