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Physical activity levels among children recover to pre-pandemic levels

Activity levels are now back in line with the 2018-2019 academic year (Image: Sport England)

Physical activity levels among children in England have returned to those seen pre-pandemic.

The latest figures from Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey show that 47 per cent of children currently meet the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of taking part in an average of 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity each day.

Covering the 2021-22 academic year, the survey shows that overall activity levels are up 2.6 per cent, meaning there are 219,000 more active children compared to the previous academic year.

This means that levels are now back in line with the 2018-2019 academic year, the last full year before the pandemic.

According to Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England CEO, the survey results are an “encouraging step in the right direction”, but also a reminder that there is “much more to do”.

“This overall growth is positive but there’s more to do to help children and young people from all backgrounds enjoy the benefits of sport and physical activity,” he said.

“We have a long way to go still to change the overall level to where it needs to be.

“That’s why we will advocate for children and young people, particularly those facing inequalities and less likely to take part in sport and physical activity, to be given a voice in decisions which affect their experiences to help ensure that those experiences are positive.

“We will also continue to work with other key stakeholders like the Department for Education to ensure that sport and physical activity is better recognised and prioritised in schools as a key enabler of children’s mental and physical wellbeing.”

Among the headline figures emerging from the survey – in addition to the increase in children achieving the CMO recommendations – is a 2.3 per cent (or 143,000) fall in the number of less active children, classed as those doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

However, there is an increase in the number of children and young people doing no activity at all in the previous seven days, up by a quarter of a million (3.3%) since pre-pandemic.

Those from low affluence families are still less likely to be active than those from high affluence (42 per cent compared to 52 per cent) and children and young people going to school in the most deprived places in the country have not seen activity recover to pre-pandemic levels.

They are also less likely to say they have positive attitudes towards sport and physical activity, and they have lower wellbeing scores.

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