Muscular strength is the ability of the body to exert a maximum force against an object external to the body in one maximum effort using the body’s muscles.1

Children do much to enhance their physical strength by engaging in daily active play. Running on the playground, jumping on trampolines, climbing trees, and riding bicycles provide good exercise that increases children’s strength. Maneuvering on playground equipment offers a variety of ways to exercise muscles and gain strength. There are many types of climbing apparatus, such as rock walls, cargo nets, climbing poles, and ladders to platforms and slides. Pushing merry-go-rounds, balancing on beams, and running and jumping onto swings all take lower body strength. Brachiating on overhead ladders and hanging from monkey bars build upper body strength.

Muscular strength increases annually for boys from the age of seven on, with a slowdown prior to puberty, then a rapid gain throughout adolescence. Girls generally increase in strength annually up to the age of twelve, when they tend to level off. Boys generally are superior in strength to girls at all ages.2

Children vary in their development of strength and coordination. Fit children are less likely to suffer injury while playing on playground equipment. Overweight children have difficulty in using some playground equipment. They are less likely to be able to hold their weight on overhead equipment and may also have difficulty in climbing. Some of the factors that contribute to these marked health and fitness deficits are: an increase in sedentary activity as children watch hours of television or play video and computer games; the increased consumption of junk food; and the decline in free play, recess, and physical education.3

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that school-age children get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, divided into several segments of 15 minutes or more, if necessary, and to avoid periods of being inactive for longer than 2 hours.4 Being physically fit offers many benefits, such as a healthy weight, strong muscles, bones, and joints, decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, better sleep, and a feeling of well-being.5

  • 1. Gallahue, David L. and Frances Cleland Donnelly. Developmental Physical Education for All Children. 4th ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2003. p. 84.
  • 2. Ibid., p. 85.
  • 3. Frost, Joe L., Pei-San Brown, John A. Sutterby, Candra D. Thornton. The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International, 2004. pp. 54-55.
  • 4. “Fitness and Your 6-to 12-Year-Old.” KidsHealth from Nemours. < > 09 Sep. 2010.
  • 5. Motivating Kids to Be Active.” KidsHealth from Nemours. < > 09 Sep. 2010.