Which Exercises Are the Best for Kids to Get Stronger?

It’s science: moving your body makes you healthier and happier. When you’re a growing kid, this is especially true. For starters, having fun is key! Working out doesn’t need to be boring. Sometimes, exercise can be challenging, but that’s okay. Thankfully, there are lots of exercises for kids that you can pick and choose from.

ballet dancer stretching exercise for kids

4 Types of exercises for kids

tween kids exercising with dumbells
Lunges with weights

Exercise helps your muscles in 4 main ways:

  • Strength: Exercises that boost your strength help you carry heavy things.
  • Endurance: Exercises that boost your endurance help you play longer. These activities make your breathing and heart rate faster as you break out in a sweat.
  • Flexibility: Exercises that boost your flexibility help you stretch your muscles, bend farther, and reach higher.
  • Balance: Exercises that boost your balance help you move without falling.

Some exercises for kids use all these skills, while others focus on one or two areas. Let’s explore a few examples!

1. Exercises to get stronger muscles

When you carry a pile of books or play tug-of-war, the big muscles in your arms, legs, back, and belly get stronger. Here are other activities that strengthen your muscles:

  • Biking
  • Crunches
  • Handstands
  • Hiking
  • Lifting weights
  • Leg lifts
  • Lunges
  • Pull-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Rowing
  • Running
exercises for kids - hiking makes your muscles stronger and builds endurance

2. Exercises to boost endurance

child having fun exercising with a hula hoop

When you race your friends or play tag, endurance helps you feel energetic enough to run. Endurance is also super important for team sports like tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball, and volleyball. Check out these other exercises that boost endurance:

  • Biking
  • Climbing stairs
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Hula hooping
  • Rollerblading
  • Rollerskating
  • Rowing
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Swimming
  • Yard work (mowing or raking the lawn)

Good news: Most exercises for kids make your muscles stronger, too!

3. Exercises to get more flexible

Not only does stretching feel good, but it also helps you feel more comfortable and flexible when you move your body. Stretching also keeps your muscles loose so they don’t cramp up. Yoga and gymnastics are great exercises for kids to get more flexible!

4. Exercises to boost your balance

Balancing acts are a fun part of games for kids, like hopscotch, obstacle courses, and walking on a balance beam. Here are more ways to improve your balance:

  • Aerial silks
  • Gymnastics
  • Karate
  • Rock climbing
  • Rollerblading
  • Ropes course
  • Skateboarding
cartwheel exercises for kids

How much exercise do kids need?

Depending on your age, you may need a different amount of exercise.

  • In preschool, playing throughout the day is the best exercise for kids. This means at least 2 hours of moving, like chasing bubbles in the yard, dancing to songs, or rolling around in the grass.
  • In elementary school, middle school, and high school, doctors recommend at least 1 hour of activity. They also recommend exercises for kids that bump up the heart rate and build muscles for at least 3 days a week. Fun options could be playing tag with friends or kicking a soccer ball down a field.

Just like everything else in life, moderation is key. It’s actually possible to exercise too much! Taking breaks from exercise gives the body a chance to rest and recover. Breaks are especially good if you’re exhausted, starving, dehydrated, or feeling pain.

dancing is a fun exercise for kids

Other benefits of exercise for kids

Not only does exercise pump up your muscles, it also helps your brain and other body parts stay healthy by:

  • Boosting your bone density
  • Strengthening your heart muscles
  • Helping you stay at a weight that fits your body
  • Releasing a chemical called endorphins that makes you feel good
  • Calming your mind
  • Sharpening your concentration
  • Helping you sleep better

And that’s just a few of the great benefits!

Tips for getting kids to exercise more

1. Use your body for transportation

Do you have a busy schedule? Save time by combining exercise with something you already do every day.

For example, riding your bike or walking to school is a good way for kids to add exercise to the day. Walking to the bus stop and standing while waiting is also great for your body.

Going upstairs? Instead of taking the elevator or escalator, climb up the stairs!

climbing stairs is great exercise for kids

2. Exercise with friends and family

family bike ride

The more the merrier! There are so many fun ways to exercise with your parents and friends. Here are some ideas to get moving as a group:

  • Go on a bike ride.
  • Take a walk after dinner.
  • Go for a family hike.
  • Play hide and seek.
  • Have a dance party.
  • Go for a family swim.
family parents children exercising at home

3. Make it a fun game

Team sports are fun for many kids, but these exercises aren’t for everyone. No worries! You can get creative and come up with games. Looking for ideas? Here are a few simple games to try:

  • Hula Hoop Contest – Who can hula hoop the longest? Can you walk while you hula hoop?
  • Play Marco Polo or a game of catch in the swimming pool.
  • Follow the Leader and copy kicking, jumping jacks, push-ups, and crawling.

4. Play some music

Have you ever noticed people tapping and nodding when they hear music? Bumpin’ beats and fun rhythms naturally inspire kids to move their bodies. Upbeat music can even help you run faster and farther.

You can even play exercise games with music! Freeze dance is a popular activity for all ages. Dance however you’d like to a song; when the music suddenly stops, freeze your body. Don’t move until the music starts playing again!

jumping dancing tween child

Your body and brain will thank you for getting enough exercise. Remember that physical activity comes in many forms, so have fun and do it in a way you like!

Kids: What are your favorite exercises?

As you can see, your body can move in many different ways while having fun. The best exercise is the one that makes you feel good. Which exercise are you going to choose today?

More fun ways to learn about your strong body

Updated on November 28, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD

Updated on November 28, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD