Friday, July 13, 2012

How Much Exercise Does a Child Need?

On the 4th of July, David started the morning running a 5K race with his Grandpa.  This was his second year running it.  An hour after the race, he road his bike a mile in each direction to watch the parade.  He then spent the afternoon playing and swimming in Lake Michigan.  In the evening we went to the beach to watch the fireworks and while we were waiting for it to get dark, David ran up and down the dunes while the rest of us sat in the sand.  After the fireworks, he walked a mile back to our car.

Running the 5K in 2011-age 7

This day was eye-opening to me.  I have always assumed that a one mile walk through our neighborhood was enough exercise for him.  Clearly I was wrong.

So now I have been puzzling over the much exercise does a child need?  How much exercise does David need???  I don't think the answers are the same.  There is no way my girls could keep up with their big brother.  There is no way that I could keep up with him.

For my girls, and probably the average child, I think a daily walk/bike ride is sufficient when coupled with at least a half hour to an hour of unorganized outside play time.  (I do kick the kids out at least once a day to play in the yard)

Snow shoeing on the sand dunes in 2010--age 6

For those children, like David, who are extremely energetic and athletic, that amount of exercise is just enough to whet their appetite.  They need more than the average person.  David has always been active.  Why walk when you can run?  Why just leisurely ride your bike when you can race against cars?  We just sit and play in the snow when you can snow shoe on the sand dunes with Grandpa?  Whenever there is any physical work to be done--raking leaves, shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, pruning trees, hauling branches to the road, helping one of his grandparents with chores--David is always the first one to volunteer.

Soccer in the freezing rain--age 5

As I was sitting there on the beach watching David run up and down the dunes while waiting for the fireworks, I realized that David needs more.  It's not a want, it's not a desire, but a physical need for activity.  His evening ritual of begging to go on a bike ride or a walk isn't just something he does to annoy us, it's a real need he has to release all that energy he has stored up in his body.

Getting ready to jump in the pool during swim lessons--age 8

So I am pursuing a year round sport for him to participate in.  I considered cross country, but all the teams that I know of in my area don't start until sixth grade (two more years).  Soccer is only six weeks in the fall and spring, so not enough.  Which brought me to swimming.  We have quite a few swim clubs in our area that David can join.  I'm not looking to raise the next Michael Phelps, but I am hoping to provide an outlet for all that energy David has.  If he does show promise, maybe it will take him somewhere in the future, but for now I just want to wear him out.


  1. Maybe you should take a family vacation down to Tennessee?

    1. We watched some of the Olympic trials and he was fascinated by the swimmers. The way they turned in the water between laps, seeing the correct way to breathe, etc. Next summer we'll be vacationing down there. Maybe we can take a field trip.