Sport England’s latest survey suggests that, despite lockdown and other restrictions, childhood physical activity has continued, but to a lesser extent due to Covid social restrictions. It also shows the wider benefits of being physically active.
The Active Lives Children and Young People Survey covers children and young people in years 1–11 (ages 5-16) in England in the academic year 2019–20. It merits careful study.
It suggests that there has been a reduction in activity levels, particularly for children in years 1–6, but the overall picture is perhaps not as bad as feared. Some activities were unavailable because either schools or facilities were closed, or both.
This is reflected in the drops in swimming, team sports and gymnastics, trampolining and cheerleading compared to 12 months ago. Active play and running, athletics or multi-sports also saw a decline in participation.Active Lives Children and Young People Survey, Academic year 2019–20
However, children have found other ways to stay active:
… more children and young people have been walking, with an increase of 4.3% going for a walk (up by more than 340,000) and an increase of 10.0% walking to get to places (up by more than three-quarters of a million).Active Lives Children and Young People Survey, Academic year 2019–20
The survey also shows a strong link between children who are physically active and individual development, good mental health, and rates of volunteering and wider community development. It also suggests that young people who engage in sport and physical activity are less likely to feel lonely.
Sport England’s message reflects one of the aims of life-based learning:
Developing children and young people’s physical literacy is essential in creating a positive and lifelong relationship with activity and without it many will not enjoy the health and social benefits associated with living active lives.Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive, Sport England
The Body is one of nine learning themes through which we believe the individual subjects of the UK National Curriculum should be taught, in order to equip children with the knowledge, skills and values to tackle the challenges they will meet as adults.
Its improved learning programme ensures that children meet ambitious targets for daily physical activity and learn healthy habits for life.
Find out how sport and physical activity can help tackle the attainment gap
Read the full January 2021 survey produced by Sport England
Why we need a long-term strategy to improve activity levels
Image at the head of this article by MaBraS from Pixabay.