Physical activity

Physical activity


Many of us aren't too keen on the idea of exercise, but it’s one of THE most important things we should all be doing every day to stay healthy, happy, and more productive.

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How much physical activity is enough?

All children and young people aged between 5-18 should be doing a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-intensity (that’s generating a sweat or becoming out of breath) exercise every day.

Remember that children don’t necessarily have to do 60 minutes all in one go! Why not achieve the target by encouraging shorter 10-minute bursts of activity?

For adults, the recommended amount is 150 minutes (2.5 hours) each week!

For more information on this visit or use this infographic from Public Health England Physical activity for children and young people: 5 to 18 years (

Why is exercise important?

The benefits of getting children active for 60 minutes each day are huge and can be broadly split into 2 categories. 


  • improved cardiovascular fitness
  • reduced chance of getting type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers
  • improved bone health and stronger muscles
  • reduced body fat
  • maintained healthy weight


  • improved self-confidence
  • improved social skills, integration into peer groups, and extended social networks
  • improved self-esteem with a greater effect for children with perceptual, emotional, and learning disabilities
  • reduced anxiety, stress levels, and the potential for reduced depression
  • Uplifted mood

There is also growing evidence highlighting a positive association between children’s physical activity and their attitude and academic performance (really important for school work/homework/exams).

Good physical development in children is linked to other types of positive development, such as speech and coordination. Moreover, being active in childhood builds the foundation for an active adult life. Once learned, a skill like swimming or riding a bike is there for life.

What's the problem?

Most children (and adults) aren’t doing enough physical activity to harness all these wonderful benefits! In fact, only about 1 in 5 children are actually doing the right amount of activity they need, and girls do less than boys!!

Part of the problem is that they sit down for too long (sedentary behaviour) instead of moving. Hours are spent sitting at school, watching TV, or playing computer games – all of which can increase the risk of poor health.

What should I promote to parents and families?

Active Bucks provides parents and families with the opportunity to search over 2000 weekly activities by distance, day, time, and activity type by visiting Active Bucks | Buckinghamshire Council. There is a huge range of activities from traditional sports to more innovative activities such as Quidditch and Bushcraft. In addition, you can register to access an activity voucher that allows you to access your first session free! In fact, you can try as many activities as you like free of charge by registering for vouchers.

10 key evidence-based recommendations

  1. Foster a positive attitude to physical activity: This is best achieved through a focus on fun and enjoyment, which may increase physical activity and at the same time enhance fitness. A focus on activities such as intense running may have a negative impact on the attitude to physical activity in some young people particularly those that are overweight or unfit.
  2. Keep the main focus on physical activity: It is important to ensure that there is sufficient exposure to the physical activity element of the intervention to facilitate behaviour change. Young people may be overwhelmed with information if attempts are made to simultaneously change other health behaviours such as smoking.
  3. Use a whole-school approach: It is important to ensure that there is school leadership and management structure support and that all class teachers and lunchtime supervisors are engaged. This whole-school approach includes training for all staff and additional physical activity in several curriculum areas (e.g. in biology or maths).
  4. Provide an activity-friendly environment: Successful physical activity interventions aim to create safe opportunities for active play or travel. Children are more likely to be active if they have good access to facilities.
  5. Include a family or home-based element: Intervention programmes appear most successful when they promote physical activities that can be done within or starting from the family home. The involvement of families has also been demonstrated to be an integral part of any school-based programme promoting physical activity.
  6. Implement the intervention for at least three months to one year and ensure that sustainability is planned into the programme: Evidence suggests that longer physical activity initiatives, such as those that run for a whole school year, tend to have a stronger effect on total physical activity levels than those of a shorter duration.
  7. Ensure that the voice of children, young people, parents, and carers is heard: Involvement in planning is likely to enhance participation in programmes.
  8. Create inclusive programmes: The most successful interventions maximise the potential for involvement of all children and young people by ensuring activities are differentiated and that they cater to a range of abilities.
  9. Change screen time habits: Interventions that have decreased screen time (i.e. TV and computer use) offer children the opportunity to increase physical activity as that time is no longer being used for sedentary screen time.
  10. Provide safe walking/cycling routes: The most successful interventions have included safe walking or cycling routes to school with an identified leader for the active travel component of the initiative who might be a volunteer or paid professional (e.g. teacher).

What works in schools and colleges to increase physical activity: Guidance to increase physical activity among children and young people in schools and colleges (

Useful resources for young people and schools

Find information and resources via Change4life

Leap (Bucks & Milton Keynes Sport & Activity Network) offer ideas, advice, guidance, support, and programmes to get involved in.

NHS Choices Offers the latest news and evidence about being active. 

Active Together ( Active Communities, a bespoke, targeted pilot programme commissioned by Public Health for schools across Wycombe (Abbey; Booker, Cressex & Castlefield; West Wycombe) and Aylesbury (north-west ward) and Active Schools (Chesham)

Teaching physical wellbeing and healthy lifestyles through the PSHE curriculum PSHE Association curriculum resources



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