May 20,

Physical Activity Guidelines

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Physical Activity Guidelines

For healthy growth and development, Infants (aged less than 1 year) should be physically active several times a day – particularly through tummy time and interactive floor-based play.

Toddlers (aged 1–2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3–4 years) are recommended to get at least 180 minutes (3 hours) of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day, including:

  • A variety of activities in different environments;
  • Activities that develop movement skills;
  • Progression toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play by 5 years of age

More daily physical activity provides greater benefits.

For Children

Preamble (linked to  or PDF document of just Children preamble)


For health benefits, children aged 5-11 should accumulate at least

60 minutes (1 hour) of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. This should include:

  • Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week
  • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at last 3 days per week

More daily physical activity provides greater benefits.

Types of physical activity:


Tummy time, reaching for or grasping balls or other toys, playing or rolling on the floor, crawling around the home


Toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Any activity that gets kids moving
  • Climbing stairs and moving around the home
  • Playing outside and exploring their environment
  • Crawling, brisk walking, running or dancing




Activity in which the body’s large muscles move in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time. Examples include walking quickly, running, swimming, and bike riding.


Activities against resistance to strengthen muscles and bones, as well as improve posture, balance and coordination.  Examples include climbing and swimming on playground equipment, push-ups, sit-ups and lifting/carrying things.


Activities involving reaching, bending and stretching that enhance the ability of joints to move through their full range of motion. Examples include stretching, yoga, gymnastics and martial arts.


Activity intensity


The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend being active at certain intensities for a minimum amount of time each day or week.


At moderate-intensity activity, children are breathing harder and their  heart beats faster. They should be able to can talk, but not sing. Activities include bike riding and playground activities.


At vigorous-intensity activity, their heart beats even faster. They will not be able to say more than a few words without catching a breath. Activities include running and swimming.


Moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) is a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity. This is what children should aim for to meet the physical activity guidelines. For young children, “energetic play” is similar to MVPA.



The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP)

Centers  for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

Last modified on Jul 22, 2016