Physical Activity for Children and Teens

Physical Activity for Children and Teens

British Columbia Specific Information

Being physically active can benefit your physical and mental health in many ways. For example, it can strengthen your muscles and bones, lower your risk of chronic health conditions, and improve your mood and sleep. Physical activity can be safe for almost everyone. If you have concerns about your health or becoming more active, speak with your health care provider or a qualified exercise professional.

For information on the role of physical activity on overall health and taking steps to change your physical activity level, visit the general health and helping you make it happen sections of our website. If you would like guidance on physical activity or exercise, call our qualified exercise professionals by dialing 8-1-1 and asking to speak with Physical Activity Services between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Pacific Time Monday to Friday. You can also leave a message outside of these hours and email a qualified exercise professional.

How Exercise Helps Children and Teens

Physical activity is key to lifelong health and well-being. Children as young as preschool age benefit from exercise and fitness as much as adults do. Being active helps children and teens to:

  • Feel stronger and have more energy to do all the things they like to do.
  • Focus better at school and perform better in sports.
  • Feel, think, and sleep better.
  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Build lean muscle.
  • Lower their risk for serious health problems.
  • Keep bones, muscles, and joints strong.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.

Tips for Helping Your Child

One of the very best things you can do for your child's health is to help make physical activity a habit—something that will be a natural part of your child's daily life through adulthood. Here are some things you can do to help your child be active and healthy.

  • Stay positive.

    It's important for children to have fun, so don't force them to exercise. Instead, find activities that they like to do and will do without being asked.

  • Create ways for your child to be active for at least 1 hour each day.

    One way to increase your child's activity is to do it in shorter periods of time throughout the day so that it adds up to 1 hour. Encourage your child to do things like running, jumping rope, or playing soccer.

  • Plan family activities that involve exercise.

    Hike or bike, wash the car, or walk around a mall. Do an online exercise video together. Offer choices, and let your child play.

  • Make physical activity part of daily routines.

    Walk with your child to do errands, or walk to the bus stop or school, if you can.

  • Have your child invite a friend over.

    This can be a weekly planned physical activity, such as a bike ride, a water balloon toss, or building a snow fort in the yard.

  • Join other families and create "neighbourhood" time.

    Include group activities like touch football, basketball, or hide-and-seek.

  • Let your child try different organized activities.

    See what your child enjoys, such as basketball, dance, soccer, or martial arts. Praise your child for doing exercise that they enjoy.

  • Talk with your child's caregiver or sitter.

    Discuss ways they can encourage your child to be physically active throughout the day.

Organized sports

Organized sports can be a great way to help your child stay active. Here are some tips for involving your child in organized sports.

  • Learn about the risks of injuries for that sport and how to prevent them.

    The injuries may be different for children than for adults. Help your child prevent sports injuries. If you have concerns, talk to your child's doctor.

  • Get to know your child's coach.

    Make sure that the coach knows about training safely and how to be safe in hot or cold weather.

  • Learn about the coach's style for getting children to learn skills and play well.

    You and your child should be comfortable with the coach's style and the coach's skills.

Learn more

Tips for Helping Your Teen

Competitive sports

Competitive sports are a great way for teens to be active while they learn valuable social skills.

Here are tips to help your teen find the right sport.

  • Be aware that sports are not for everyone.
  • Focus on things that your teen enjoys doing.

    It could be competitive or non-competitive sports. Or your teen may choose personal fitness activities such as jogging, yoga, or cycling. Some teens may prefer individual sports like karate, gymnastics, and swimming rather than group sports like soccer and baseball.

  • Help your teen avoid competition that stresses winning over everything else, including sportsmanship and schoolwork.

Avoiding injuries

Any repeated movement or impact can cause an overuse injury. These injuries can cause pain or soreness, inflammation, and even stress fracture of a bone. After an overuse injury has started, it can take weeks to heal. Children and teens are most at risk when their bones are still growing.

Common overuse injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist, rotator cuff injury of the shoulder, tennis elbow, Osgood-Schlatter disease of the knee, and plantar fasciitis of the foot.

The following can help your child avoid these injuries.

  • Encourage your child to do many different sports instead of focusing on one sport.
  • Make sure that your child is using the right technique and equipment.
  • Teach your child to pay attention to pain and fatigue.

    Pain and tiredness are the body's way of saying "slow down, recover, and heal." Sore muscles are common after a new activity. But pain can be a sign of injury.

  • Make sure that your child gets enough rest and nutrition.
  • Place a limit on your child's participation in the sport.

    The Canadian Paediatric Society suggests that children take part in a variety of activities and avoid early specialization. footnote 1And if your child tries different sports, then he or she will learn lifelong fitness skills and have fun trying new activities.

Learn more



  1. Canadian Paediatric Society (2005). Sport readiness in children and youth. Paediatrics and Child Health, 10(6): 343–344. Also available online:


Adaptation Date: 6/13/2023

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC