Coronavirus, an update from Active Cornwall

Landmark Report Reveals Children's Activity Levels for the First Time

Active Lives Children & Young People
  •  Around 3 million children (43.3%) lead active lives nationally, doing an average of 60 or more minutes of physical activity a day, compared to 44.4% in Cornwall.
  • Among active children, only the most active 1.2m (17.5% of total) are meeting the CMO guideline of 60+ minutes of activity a day, every day of the week - 14.1% in Cornwall.
  • Just over 2.3 million children and young people (32.9%) are less active which means they do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day - 27.5% in Cornwall.
  • A further 1.7m (23.9%) are fairly active, doing 30-59 minutes of physical activity a day - 28% in Cornwall.
  • Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth calls for a focus on the health and wellbeing of young people with system-wide change.

New research published by Sport England today, carried out independently by Ipsos MORI, reveals the scale of the challenge to help the nation's children be more active, and the benefits that sport and physical activity can bring.
Active Lives Children and Young People is the largest ever survey of its kind, and provides comprehensive insight into how children in England are taking part in sport and physical activity both in and out of school. It shows that around 3 million children (43.3%) lead active lives, doing an average of 60 or more minutes of physical activity a day. However just over 2.3 million children and young people (32.9%) are less active which means they do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day.
The report is based on responses from over 130,000 children aged 5-16 in England with a sample size of 1,000 in Cornwall during the academic year 2017 to 2018. It also reveals that there are significant inequalities based on family income.

It shows that children from the most affluent families are more active than those in the least affluent families. 39% of children in the least affluent families do less than 30 minutes of activity a day compared with 26% of children from the most affluent families.

77% of children can swim 25 metres unaided by the time they leave primary school. However, 86% of children from the most affluent families can swim 25m unaided compared to only 42% from the least affluent families.

Other findings include:

  • There is not a lot of difference in the amount of sport and physical activity that takes place inside school, compared to activity levels outside of school, so both have a critical role to play. 28% of children are active in school for at least 30 minutes per day while 22% of children are active outside of school.
  • Activity levels peak at the end of primary school to the beginning of secondary school, but no age group reaches a majority of children doing the recommended levels of 60 minutes per day, every day.
  • The type of activity preferred changes as children get older. 'Active play' such as tag or climbing in a playground are the most popular forms of activity for younger age groups, with team sports growing in popularity as children get older. By school years 7-8 team sports are the most popular and remaining so through to age 16. 
  • There is a gender divide between activity levels of boys and girls. Boys are more likely to be active every day than girls - 20% (boys) versus 14% (girls). This rift increases as girls get older, with a large gap opening from the end of primary school (years 5-6).
Cornwall School Games

The survey also covers the 'outcomes' of sport and activity and helps to show the links between being active and the mental wellbeing of children as well as their personal development and that of their community.  The opportunity to see more of these benefits by helping more children to be active enough is clear.

Commenting, Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive at Sport England said:  "Parents, schools, the sport and leisure industry and government all have a role to play in addressing and increasing childhood activity. This research is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and is a big wake-up call for all of us. We all care about the health and wellbeing of our children. These results tell us that what is currently being done to support them is not enough and change is required. "

"We know that lots of factors affect behaviour and there is no single answer to the problem but listening to young people and what they want is the best starting point. In March we will publish the first results of our research on the attitudes of children to sport and activity, showing what they like about being active. "

"I am calling for a national focus on the health and wellbeing of our nation's children and for the whole system to be united in delivering change. Our children deserve better and Sport England is determined to play its part."

Richard Higginson Chair of the Cornwall PE and School Sport Strategic Alliance commented: "As we are working through a strategic alliance in Cornwall to give
opportunities for all young people to be active within and beyond the school day it is great to have this insight as a baseline for us to improve on and help shape our priorities from within Time 2 Move the counties PE and School Sport Framework"

Sports Minister Mims Davies said:   "While it is encouraging that 3 million children do at least an average of 60 minutes of sport or physical activity every day, the number of young people who are not doing enough is simply unacceptable. We know that an active child is a happier child and efforts must be stepped up to encourage young people to live healthy, active lives and I know that Sport England are committed to making progress in this area. "
"Our School Sport and Activity Action Plan will also ensure that all children have access to quality PE, sport sessions and clubs. Together with the sport sector, parents and our local communities, we must build a comprehensive and cross Government offer to create a truly active nation."

Rachel Knott who led on the survey for the Cornwall Sports Partnership commented on the type of activity young people prefer with team sports growing in popularity as children get older. "We've been working collaboratively in Cornwall to design a new vision and innovative sports formats for the Cornwall School Games which aims to provide a well organised, appropriate and enjoyable programme of competitions for young people of all abilities. PE staff in Cornwall realised that many young people were missing out on the opportunity to develop skills from working and communicating in a team, problem solving and resilience, learning to self and peer reflect, improve relationships, gain leadership skills, improve self-esteem and body confidence, which we have addressed with our new programme. We hope that this opportunity will convert the number of young people wanting to play team sport shown in this survey to young people actually playing."

Dr Alison Tedstone, Public Health England Head of Diet, Obesity and Physical Activity said:  "Physical activity is crucial for good physical and mental health of children and young people - this work is a timely reminder for everyone to do more to help them be more active."

Understanding the barriers, motivations and attitude of young people towards sport and physical activity is a key part of providing solutions that meet their needs.

To find out more about Active Lives Children and Young People and see the full results in full, go to