By seventh grade, most children have entered puberty and their bodies have begun to undergo rapid and profound change as they mature into adults. Children in seventh grade are usually 12 or 13 years old, and the guide below covers adolescents in that age group. However, the age at which children reach milestones for physical growth varies considerably. If you are concerned about your child’s physical development, you should consult your pediatrician.
Engaging in regular physical activity and exercise is important for adolescents. It promotes growth, helps them build strength and develop healthy bodies, and can even enhance academic performance. Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and certain cancers. Many children become less physically active with the onset of puberty, just as their risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and obesity increases. Regular physical activity and exercise can help adolescents feel in control of their bodies and can be a helpful way of dealing with the stress and emotional changes that also occur during puberty.
The benefits to your child of physical activity can include:
- Increased self-sufficiency and confidence
- Improvements in learning
- Better sleep
- Weight management
- Stress management
- Improved social skills
- Decreased risk for chronic diseases later in life
- Decreased television, video game, cellphone, and computer use
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This does not need to be 60 minutes of sustained activity at a time, but can include different episodes of activity that, together, total 60 minutes or more. Adolescents should be engaged in a variety of activities that require different degrees of exertion. These should include vigorous activities, such as running, and more moderate activities, such as brisk walking.
Children in seventh grade do not necessarily need a structured exercise regimen if physical activity is a part of their everyday activities. Many children this age are active in organized sports, which can be an excellent way for them to get the recommended amounts of physical activity and establish regular exercise habits that can become the basis of lifelong fitness.
The guidelines recommend that children and adolescents engage in vigorous physical activity at least three times a week. This can include playing soccer, doing martial arts or riding a bike.
Building muscle strength is especially important for children and adolescents, and exercise is key to achieving this goal. Muscle-strengthening activities are those that force the muscles to do more than the normal workload and should include all the major muscle groups of the body. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include climbing, sit-ups, and resistance exercises. The guidelines recommend that children and adolescents engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least three times a week.
Building bone strength is also important for growing children and adolescents. Bone-strengthening exercises build strength through the force that is exerted on the bones. Activities that achieve this important goal include running, skipping rope, and playing tennis or volleyball. The guidelines recommend that adolescents engage in bone-strengthening activities at least three times a week.
As your child ages and the demands of school, socializing and activities increase, your ability to convince your teenager to prioritize sleep may be challenging. It is important for you to continue to talk with your child about their sleeping habits and lay out clear expectations around sleep. Most middle school students sleep far less than experts recommend and are actually sleep-deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 15% of teenagers reported sleeping at least 8½ hours on school nights. Sleep deprivation distracts students from focusing in school, increases the likelihood of acne, and increases the likelihood of gaining weight. In addition, it can lead to a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, or type 2 diabetes later in life. It is important for you to keep track of your child’s sleeping habits as your child ages. If you notice significant changes, it may be a sign that other health-related issues are present. Consult with your child’s health care provider about additional steps you can take to ensure your child gets a more restful night of sleep.
Nightly sleep needs
Despite the many demands on your child’s time, students in seventh grade should sleep for approximately 9 hours and 15 minutes every night. To achieve this goal, a student who needs to be up by 6:15 a.m. to get ready for school should be in bed no later than 9 p.m. Though a 9 p.m. bedtime may seem unattainable to some, experts recommend making sleep a priority by encouraging your child to get as much sleep as possible. The closer they are to getting the recommended amount of sleep, the better.
Learn more about supporting your child with our seventh grade physical health tips page.
Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Dr. Natasha Burgert, Pediatrician, Pediatric Associates and Dr. Jayne Greenberg, District Director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.