Children's charity calls for urgent action in response to stagnant physical activity levels among children

This new release from Sport England shows, that in the past year, there has been little change to the activity levels of young people within England, and inactivity levels remain persistently high.

Active Lives Children and Young People Survey data released today by Sport England shows that….

  • Still fewer than half (47%) of children are meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in an average of 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity a day. Activity levels remain unchanged compared to 2021- 2022
  • Significant inequalities remain in activity levels, with Black (40%) and Asian (40%) children and young people, still less likely to play sport or be physically active than the average across all ethnicities and affluence groups. Girls (44%) are also less likely to be active than boys (51%)
  • Children and young people from the least affluent families are the least likely to be active, with only 44% meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines – compared to 55% of those from the most affluent families.

Responding to the findings, Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver MBE, said:

“This new release from Sport England shows, that in the past year, there has been little change to the activity levels of young people within England, and inactivity levels remain persistently high.

“This year we have seen the release of a new Government Sports Strategy, and 2 years of confirmed funding for schools via the PE and Sport Premium for Primary Schools. However, it is clear there is much work (still) to do. As this data shows, almost 4 million children are still not physically active for at least 60 minutes each day, as recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers to deliver a wide range of health benefits. When too many children are struggling with their well-being, we believe this is a matter of national concern, and strategies that focus on physical activity should be at the heart of approaches to tackle this.

“Daily movement is essential for physical and mental health, and play is fundamental for social development. Unhappy and unhealthy children do not learn, and this has consequences for education. PISA 2022 results released just this week showed that pupils in England reported a significantly lower average level of satisfaction (6.01) when compared to the average across the OECD education systems (6.75). Importantly the extent to which a pupil feels satisfied with their life is related to performance in the PISA mathematics assessment. To improve educational outcomes, we must ensure more children are physically active.

“Today’s Active Lives data release reveals persistent gaps in activity levels remain for girls, 7-9 year olds, young people from less affluent families and Asian and Black ethnic groups. We need to take urgent action so all children get 60 active minutes a day of PE, sport and play.

“The Youth Sport Trust has a track record of helping children access, enjoy and benefit from inclusive and engaging physical education, physical activity and sport in schools.  Children are born moving and so the task at hand is how to ensure they can keep moving, develop physically as well as academically through education and find activities and sports they can enjoy for life. 

“To do this we have to start in schools - sadly, a further 4,000 hours of Physical Education have been lost from the curriculum in state-funded secondary schools in the last academic year, and access to co-curricular enrichment programmes and after school sport is declining. This translates into a devaluing of the importance of physical activity and the role sport plays in developing skills for life, while also reinforcing the false separation between mind and body, movement and learning.

“It is encouraging the Government’s recent Sport Strategy committed to a national campaign to raise awareness of recommended activity levels for children and young people. Given that our research shows less than half (43%) of parents are aware how active their children should be, a campaign to highlight why 60 active minutes a day is so important is vital to drive the societal shift we need to see.

“But alongside this, I believe raising the importance of physical development in the early years, supporting all schools to be active learning environments and re-imagining Physical Education so its sole purpose is healthy learners and active citizens would represent an informed and powerful response to this latest set of Active Lives Data.”

About the Youth Sport Trust

The Youth Sport Trust is a UK leading children’s charity for improving young people's wellbeing through sport and play. It empowers young people and equips educators to transform lives. Founded in 1995, it works with around 20,000 schools and inspires Changemakers to build a sense of belonging. Its vision is to create a future where every child enjoys the life-changing benefits of play and sport. Visit the YST website for ideas, tips and information

What is Active Lives?

Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey is the most comprehensive study of activity levels among children and young people aged 5-16 in England. The annual statistics provide detailed insight and understanding around their sport and physical activity habits. 

About PISA

PISA is the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment. PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.

Published on 7 December 2023