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Physical Activity For Children And Adolescents

Physical activity in general is very important for all the individuals as it helps manage weight, reduce the risk of heart diseases, lead to fat mobilization, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health. Some of the benefits of physical activity for children and adolescents include:

  1. Reduce risk of heart problems as adults

  2. Reduce risk of metabolic disorders like Diabetes

  3. Reduce risk of injuries in Sports

  4. Reduce risks of Osteoporosis

  5. Boost up self esteem

  6. Improve breathing and overall fitness

  7. Improve balance, co-ordination, and agility

  8. Promotes better posture

  9. Builds a stronger immune system

  10.  Promotes teamwork and helps building new relationships


Guidelines For Exercises And Progression In Children And Adolescents

Age 7 years or younger:

  • Introduce child to basic exercises with little or no weight
  • Develop the concept of “training session”
  • Teach exercise techniques
  • Progress from body weight calisthenics, partner exercises and low resistance exercises      
  • Keep volume low

Age 8 - 10 years:

  • Gradually increase the number of exercises
  • Practice exercise techniques in all lifts
  • Start gradual progressive loading of exercises
  • Keep exercises simple focussing on all major muscle groups of body
  • Gradually increase the training volume
  • Carefully monitor toleration to the exercise stress
Age 11-13 years:
  • Teach all basic exercise techniques
  • Control progressive loading of each exercise
  • Emphasize on exercise techniques
  • Introduce more advanced exercises with little or no load
Age 14-15 years:
  • Progress to more advanced youth programs in resistance exercise
  • Add sports specific components
  • Emphasize exercise techniques 
  • Increase volume
Age 16 years and older:
  • Move child to entry level adult programs after all background knowledge has been mastered and a basic level of training has been gained

It's important to remember that all the exercises should be performed through full range of motion to develop strength and maintain flexibility. The children should be encouraged to maximize their athletic potential by optimizing their dietary intake (proper hydration and advice on supplements).


Basic Guidelines That Should Be Followed:

  • Include appropriate warm up and cool down before and after every exercise sessions

  • Begin with 1 light set of 10 - 15 repetitions of 6 - 8 different exercises

  • Encourage success by choosing the appropriate exercises and workload for each child

  • Focus on participation and proper technique rather than the amount of weight lifted

  • Perform 1 - 3 sets of variety of single and multiple joint exercises, depending on time, goals and needs 

  • Teach children how to perform exercise with appropriate form and monitor progress

  • Vary the strength training program over time to optimize training and prevent boredom


Physical Activity Recommendations For Children And Adolescents


Let's Bust Some Myths

  • “Resistance training can stunt growth in children”
    • ​If it is not performed appropriately, resistance training can lead to injuries in growth plates and epiphyseal plates of young children. However, supervised resistance training with appropriate loads can help children and adolescents to build optimum muscle strength and prevent the risk of osteoporosis as adults. It also develops a “habit” among children to have an exercise regimen as adult, thus improving their overall fitness.
  • “Resistance training leads to injuries in children and adolescents”

    • If a child continues to perform similar kinds of activities for a long period of time and doesn’t focus on other muscle groups, it might lead to muscular imbalances and overuse injuries. Thus, it is very important that as adolescents, one focuses on building overall strength and fitness instead of just continuing one sport. They should be made to play various sports, avoiding injuries.

Written by: Rashmi Gera (Physiotherapist)

Rashmi Gera did her Graduation from a National Institute of Delhi University and Post Graduation in Sports from a University affiliated to the Ministry of Youth and Sports. She is a certified Manual Therapist and an ardent practitioner of Evidence Based Practice. She focuses on developing an overall wellness of the patient and not just merely healing pains. She has worked with various state teams and with athletes of various sports including Kabaddi, Football, Fencing, Swimming, Softball and many more.

Author by Rashmi Gera, Nov 21, 2022,


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