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St Michael's Church Of England Primary School

How Many Calories Does A Child Burn?

Children will put on weight if they take in more calories through food and drink than they burn though activity. It’s recommended that children should get about 30 minutes of structured exercise every day, and then a further 60 minutes of active playing. Some children seem to be on the go all the time – how many calories are they burning up as they play? And what about the ones that just sit there?

Playing Video Games

Many children play video games on computers and games machines. Playing video games that don’t involve moving around much only burn between 22 and 32 calories an hour for children. Some games are a bit more active – according to a study in Liverpool in 2007, children used up about 150 calories an hour (on average) playing active games on a Wii – though this did of course depend quite how energetic they are being. Another study, this time in Oklahoma, looked at children watching television, playing on the Wii (a boxing or bowling game) and playing a dance video game, or walking on a treadmill. The children using the Wii or dancing burned about the same number of calories as the children on the treadmill, and burned three times as many as the children just watching television.

Active Play

Active play is a great way to get exercise and burn off calories too. For children, riding a bike burns off about 118-172 calories an hour and skateboarding uses up 74-108 calories an hour. Even something as elegant as ballet burns off 71-103 calories an hour.

Just Being Still…

Children burn up calories even when they are sitting or laying still. Sleeping burns a few calories, but only somewhere around 13-19 per hour. Watching television burns a few more – but not many – 15-22 calories an hour. Homework is about the best way to burn up calories sitting still, at 27-39 calories an hour.

Reading for 15 minutes can burn around 20 or so calories, and laughing for 15 minutes could burn 10 - 40 calories!

…And The Ones Who Are Never Still!

Some children are natural-born fidgeters, tapping finger and toes, wriggling in their seats, and not sitting still for five minutes. This might be really quite annoying for everyone else, but fidgeting burns off calories in the same way that exercise does. Fidgeting is probably to do with personality type, as not all children fidget, and it’s not something they can learn.

How Many Calories Does A Child Need?

As different activities burn up different numbers of calories, and different sexes of children need different numbers of calories at different ages, this is hard to say. A 2 - 3 year old girl who isn’t very active will need about 1000 calories a day; a moderately active girl of 4 - 8 will need about 1400-1600 calories a day; and a 9 -13 year old girl with an active lifestyle will need 1800-2200 calories a day. An active 9-13 year old boy will need more calories – around 2000-2600 per day.