Patient Information

Exercise and Children

There are really four factors that influence how much exercise a child will do:

Natural ability refers to the capabilities a child is born with.  Some children seem to have an easier time with certain activities, whereas others have more trouble.  These differences may be related to body shape, muscle size or degree of coordination.  Sometimes it seems that natural ability runs in families.

Physical conditioning refers to the degree to which natural ability is improved through practice and exercise.  The more practice and exercise one engages in, the more skill and endurance one can expect in a given physical activity.

Personal interest refers to the degree to which a child wants to exercise or play sports.  Some children have little interest.  As a result the exercise less and are not well conditioned.  Their exercise capacity or stamina will be less than a child who enjoys exercise or sports, practices them a great deal and is therefore better conditioned.

Finally, medical problems can certainly affect the ability to exercise by limiting a child's strength, senses, coordination or heart or lung function.  A child with exercise-induced asthma, a muscle disorder or heart condition may be limited in how vigorously they can exercise, or for how long. 

When a family is concerned about a child who seems to tire easily it is helpful to consider these four factors.  An initial medical evaluation is often warranted to rule out medical problems; usually the primary care physician will check the history and examination, and then may or may not recommend further evaluation by specialists.  Once medical conditions have been satisfactorily ruled out the other three factors can be considered.

Often children who are less interested in exercise resist physical activities and become deconditioned.  Children may be disinterested for a variety of reasons: