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Physical Activity Levels in The UK

Physical inactivity is a major public health challenge in the developed world and is recognised as a global epidemic.  Because of such global concerns, the UK government have set national targets and started to address the worryingly high child obesity levels. The UK government has set a target for 70% of the population to be reasonably active (30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week) by 2020. It is important to recognise that physical activity habits track from childhood to adulthood.

The Weekly Recommended Amount of Physical Activity Levels for Children in the UK

  • Children under 5 who are able to walk unaided are recommended to be active for at least 3 hours per day.
  • Children aged 5-18 twofold. It is recommended that children should be at least active for 60 minutes per a day, though it is specifically stated that this is a minimum figure and young persons are encouraged to be active for up to several hours a day.


The Health Survey for England 2015 Physical Activity in Children, examined the physical activity levels in children and England in 2015. The key findings (below) indicate that in order to help achieve the 70% target of the population being physically active,work and intervention needs to be put in place at childhood in order to encourage young individuals to be active and to sustain activity levels throughout their life. Such statistics also suggest that important role schools have in encouraging children to be more active.

Key Findings:

  • Excluding school - based activities, only 22% of children aged between 5 and 15 met the physical activity guidelines of being at least moderately active for at least 60 minutes every day.
  • 79% of children participated in activities such as walking and sports in the last week while in a lesson at school.
  • Time spent being sedentary (excluding time at school) during the week and at the weekend increased with age.
  • Fewer than 9% of children aged 2 to 4 were classified as meeting current guidelines. 


Consequences of Physical Inactivity

"Children's physical activity levels in England are alarmingly low, and the drop in activity from the ages 5-12 is concerning. Children who get enough physical activity are mentally and physically healthier, and have all round better development in adulthood - getting into the habit of doing short bursts of activity early can deliver lifelong benefits."

- Eustace de Sousa, National Lead for Children, Young People and Families



Five Extra Years

In the last 40 years, Physical Activity (PA) has dropped by 20% in the UK. Where PA was once the norm, machines and technology have taken over, leading to a norm oh physical inactivity. The health implication of this are huge, meaning that for the first time in history, this generation of children may die 5 year younger than that of their parents. The cost and consequence of this is phenomenal.

With this is mind, and as part of the project called 'Designed to Move' Nike created a short video called ‘Five Extra Years’ asking children to think how they would use 5 extra years. It is a powerful, moving and thoughtful film.

Designed to Move highlights a need to facilitate two things to help increase young peoples PA levels

  •       Create early positive experiences for children 

If kids are playing hard and having fun, they’ll come back for more. One day, they’ll have hard playing kids of their own, and the negative cycle will be broken.

  •      Integrate PA into everyday life 

Our world doesn’t make physical activity very easy. Everything around us is designed for sedentary convenience. It’s time to shake things up.