What is Exercise Deficit Disorder?

Exercise Deficit Disorder is defined as reduced levels of moderate to vigorous activity that fall below the public health recommendations.

What are the current exercise guidelines for children and adolescents?

The Center for Disease Control guidelines states that children and adolescents should do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

What is the cure for Exercise Deficit Disorder?

The best news is that the cure is free, requires no medications, and may not even require you to leave your backyard.

The cure for Exercise Deficit Disorder is physical activity! (For adults, that means exercise - guess I have to continue waking up at 6 am to get in my minutes before work; however for kids it is PLAY!)

What is moderate to vigorous activity?

On a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being no effort required and 10 being maximal effort; moderate to physical activity is 5-8. If your child is completing an activity that is moderate to vigorous he or she will be breathing harder than they would be at rest. (Unable to talk with you like they would if they were sitting in a chair; because they have to pause to take breaths)

What sort of activities should my child be doing?

The GREAT thing about being a kid is that they do not have to do “formal exercise” as an adult typically does. Adolescent exercise is PLAY!! So time at recess, physical education class at school, extracurricular sport in the community, or spending time at the playground at the park ALL counts as physical activity.

Your child’s play should incorporate three different types of physical activity:

  1. Aerobic activity– such as running, biking, skipping
  2. Muscle strengthening- such as stair/ladder climbing, playing on jungle gym
  3. Bone strengthening- this happens any time your child is on his or her feet so activities like jumping, playing soccer, playing on hands and knees all count as bone strengthening activities

Why should I be concerned if my child has Exercise Deficit Disorder?

Reports indicate that

-The decline in regular physical activity is observable by age 6 years

-80.3% of 13- to 15-year-old adolescents do not meet the recommended 60 minutes of  moderate to-vigorous physical activity daily

-Approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese

Your child is not only missing out on the benefits of improve cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal fitness but is also missing out on the other benefits of exercise including the components of emotions, social, and cognitive well-being.

Lifelong habits (both healthy and unhealthy) are developed in childhood. As your child ages he or she may have difficulty confidently interacting in a variety of physical activities at the same level as their peers. Exercise deficits in youth may manifest into sedentary lifestyle habits in adulthood: leading to poor health including cardiovascular disease.

How do I encourage my child to participate in this amount of physical activity?

-Decrease television/video game time and replace with time outdoors

-Take your little ones to the park to play

-Take a family outing to the bike path or on a nature walk

-Find community programs that your child may enjoy: soccer, gymnastics etc.


I can’t wait to read your comments below and see pictures of your children playing and combating Exercise Deficit Disorder.

If you are concerned or have questions about your child’s current level of fitness and need help increasing their physical activity please consult your pediatrician or a physical therapist. 

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