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Being active keeps our bodies healthy. It also helps us to feel good about ourselves. Exercise has a good effect on our mental health as well as our physical health.

As children grow older, and begin puberty you may notice that they are not so keen to be physically active. They may spend less time outside playing. They may be spending more time on computer games and using screens. They may be more self-conscious about their body and not want to run and play as they once did.

The advice is that children and young people get an hour of physical activity each day – this could include the walk to school, walking the dog, even biking to the park. Three times a week exercise should activity that gets your heart beating faster and makes you a bit out of breath – this is called aerobic exercise.

  • Small amounts of exercise can add up. This may reassure you that your child is more active than you thought. It may just be a few tweaks to daily life that can get your child moving more.

    • Do they walk /cycle to school?
    • Do they run around with friends at school break, or at the park?
    • Do they walk to the shop, or to see friends?

    Being in a family that keeps busy and active is important. Active parents and carers make it seem ‘normal’ for children and young people to be active too. For some families this is something they have always done, for other families this could be a new habit. Some young people and their parents have had bad experiences of exercise during PE at school, or maybe through bullying, or low confidence. Perhaps the sports available just didn’t suit, or seem fun. These past experiences can become a barrier to living active lives.

    There are many different sports and activities out there, and a little bit of research about what is available in your area will help. *Click Here* to see activities available in Norfolk. Dancing, swimming or skateboarding may be just the thing that works for your child -instead of team sports that they don’t feel good at.

    If your child loves computer games look into ones that get you moving – there are many that get you dancing or running on the spot. They are great ways to get the heart racing and the whole family laughing and joining in.

    Thinking together about what might interest your child can make all the difference. You can change those difficult feelings about exercise.

    Your child may now spend more time with friends than with family.

    • Keep offering to do things with your child – it is important they know you would like to be active with them, and you enjoy their company.
    • You can always try a little ‘kind bribery’ to get them on board – give them choice on the activity, or letting them choose what is for tea afterwards.
    • You could ask their friend along when you plan a family activity.


  • Some children and young people just love to be busy and active, they don’t sit still and they love sport or being on the go. For most children and young people this is a great thing, and will help them to live healthier and happier lives. Occasionally parents might start to worry that the young person is exercising too much. There might have been a gradual increase, or a child that had previously not been active, suddenly starting to exercise a lot.

    • Maybe your child wants to improve their performance in a sport they enjoy. It is important that bodies get a rest from energetic exercise too. It is advised that the same physical activity should be done for no more than 5 days a week. If they choose to be active on other days it should be a different less demanding exercise; so if they usually do gymnastics maybe they could go for a swim on other days. This lowers the risk of injury and overuse of the same joints and muscles.
    • Maybe you or another family member are accidentally putting pressure on your child because you are so proud of how well they are doing at a sport. This is understandable, but your child learns from you how to get balance in their lives. It is important to try hard and do your best. It is equally important to be able to relax and recover. Young people need to develop a wide range of interests, and focus on friendships and relationships as well as organised activities.
    • Maybe your child has become focused on controlling their diet, and weight and exercising has become a part of this wider problem. You may be worrying that your child is exercising a lot of the time, or even secretively. They might become anxious, irritable, or angry when you mention this. When exercising is not possible they might be upset and worried. This could be a sign that they are struggling with changes in their bodies and/or challenges in their lives.

    Try talking to your child about this and seeing if you can plan together when and what kind of exercise they take. Help them understand better how eating well, exercising well and sleeping enough is the best way to feel and look good.

Who Can Help?

If you are concerned about your child’s weight or eating habits and feel you need support then you can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

Alternatively you can go to see your GP to discuss concerns.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum. CLICK HERE

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