How Many Steps a Day Should Kids Take?

Physical activity for kids should exceed 11500 steps per day

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) US guidelines for children's health call for at least an hour a day of physical activity. Another way to calculate that is steps per day. How many steps a day should kids be taking?

One possible answer might be 12,000 steps. That is the number recommended by the President's Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program.

A recent study calculated whether an hour of physical activity a day matched 12,000 steps a day for kids. The researchers found it was close.

An hour a day of exercise meant about 11,500 steps a day, or 9,000 steps a day if counting with a pedometer.

"Kids should exercise daily."

One goal of the study, led by Marc A. Adams, PhD, MPH, with the Exercise and Wellness Program in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University, was to determine if the 12,000 steps per day recommended by the White House matched with other US guidelines.

The researchers calculated the steps per day for children aged 6 to 11 and for adolescents aged 12 to 17.

The researchers used accelerometer data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. An accelerometer is a device that measures how fast someone moves.

Children in that 2005-2006 survey wore accelerometers, so that information was used along with data gathered from 915 children and 1,302 adolescents in 2011 and 2012 for this study.

The researchers calculated that a minimum 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children aged 6 to 11 translates to about 11,500 to 13,500 steps per day.

Among teens, a minimum hour a day of physical activity equates to about 11,500 to 14,000 steps per day.

These steps were all considered "natural" average steps taken by children or teens. If kids were counting their steps using a pedometer, the number they should shoot for is about 9,000 steps a day.

"Considering the other evidence to date, we propose a reasonable ‘rule of thumb’ value of [at least] 11,500 accelerometer-determined steps/day for both children and adolescents (and both genders), accepting that more is better," the researchers wrote. "For practical applications, 9,000 steps/day appears to be a more pedometer-friendly value."

The study was published April 21 in the journal International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. The research was funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 23, 2013
Last Updated:
November 11, 2013