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, there have been studies showing 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 today's Old Order Amish communities show that children in those homes take more steps per day and are more physically fit and have lower levels of obesity and 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.

Small Steps Add Up

While diet contributes to childhood obesity, activity seems to be the key for a child to grow with a healthy weight. Parents can make a game of increasing activity by giving their child a pedometer and encouraging them to increase their daily steps. 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.

Walking With Your Kids

An easy way to boost walking time for kids is to walk together. 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 2000. Continue the next week rewarding those who increase them another 2000 until they reach the goal of 10,000 for adults, 12,000 for girls and 12,000 for children or as high as 15,000 for boys. Have a big celebration when anyone reaches those major goals.

How Many Steps a Child Needs

With 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 almost 2000 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 9000 steps per day. While there was no agreed-upon definitive target number, the authors proposed aiming for 11,500 unedited or 9,000 pedometer steps a day as a "reasonable rule of thumb."

A previous study published in 2004 reviewed research of almost 2000 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 a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). The study was published in the June 2004 "Preventative Medicine" by Catrine Tudor-Locke Ph.D. and associates.

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  2. Silva MP, Fontana FE, Callahan E, Mazzardo O, De campos W. Step-Count Guidelines for Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. J Phys Act Health. 2015;12(8):1184-91. doi:10.1123/jpah.2014-0202

  3. Adams M, Johnson W, Tudor-Locke C. Steps/day Translation of the Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity Guideline for Children and Adolescents. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2013;10:49 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-49

  4. Tudor-locke C, Pangrazi RP, Corbin CB, Rutherford W, Vincent S, Raustorp A, Tomson L, Cuddihy T. BMI-referenced standards for recommended pedometer-determined steps/day in children. Prev Med. 2004;38(6):857-64. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2003.12.018

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