The Amount of Pedometer Steps for Healthy Kids

Pedz Pedometer for Kids
Pedz Pedometer for Kids.

Wendy Bumgardner 

Are your kids walking enough? There is concern that with changing times, children may not be getting enough activity in their daily lives.

In North America, studies show children are walking less. This can be due to factors such as fewer children walking to school, a change in physical activity during the school day, and limiting physical play to the home or organized sports. Comparatively, studies of Old Order Amish communities show that children in those homes take more steps per day, are more physically fit, and have lower levels of obesity and later adulthood diabetes than children in mainstream households.

Recommendations for daily steps for children vary based on goals and circumstances. Generally, though, all children between the ages of 5 and 19 should take around 12,000 steps per day.

Steps Per Day for Kids

With rates of childhood obesity skyrocketing in countries around the world, researchers asked how much activity a child needs to be in a healthy body composition zone. Pedometers easily measure how much a child is moving between activities and play, and these "lifestyle steps" can be enough to keep a child in a healthy weight zone.

A study published in 2013 followed over 2,200 children who wore accelerometers to determine what number of steps best showed that they met recommendations for 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). The study authors determined that 11,500 unedited steps on an accelerometer were an indication of achieving that much activity.

When using a pedometer that edits out random movement, that equals 9,000 steps per day. While there was no agreed-upon definitive target number, the authors proposed aiming for 11,500 unedited or 9,000 edited pedometer steps a day as a "reasonable rule of thumb."

A previous study published in 2004 reviewed research of almost 2,000 children in the USA, Australia, and Sweden. It showed that for children aged 6 through 12 years, girls needed 12,000 steps per day and boys needed 15,000 steps per day to stay in the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) range.

How to Increase Daily Steps

While diet contributes to childhood obesity, activity seems to be a key factor for a child to grow with a healthy weight. There are different ways to increase your child's steps per day to increase their overalI physical activity.

Use a Pedometer

Parents can make a game of increasing activity by giving their child a pedometer and encouraging them to increase their daily steps. Several brands (like Fitbit) make fitness tracker and pedometers for kids that are less expensive and easier to use than products make for adults.

Steps will be counted when a child walks, runs or jumps, although not while biking or skateboarding. There are pedometers with apps specially designed for children and youth that allow parents to set and monitor activity goals and give their child rewards for activity.

Create a Family Challenge

An easy way to boost walking time for kids is to walk together as a family. It's a healthy, free activity that bonds you together while you all get more physical activity. 

Buy a pedometer for each member of your family and have a healthy competition. The first week, simply track average steps. The second week, reward each person who increases their daily steps by 2,000.

Continue the next week rewarding those who increase their daily steps another 2,000 until they reach the goal of 10,000 for adults and 12,000 for children (some research recommends 11,000 to 12,000 steps for girls and 13,000 to 15,000 for boys). Have a big celebration when anyone reaches those major goals.

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