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Children and young people’s activity levels are on the rise

The Children’s Active Lives Survey report released this month summarises the activity levels of children and young people aged 5-16 in England over the 2021-2022 academic year.

The latest report, available here covers shows that children and young people’s activity levels have overall recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with 47% of children taking part in 60+ minutes of physical activity a day each week.

Overall activity levels are up 2.6%, meaning there are 219,000 more active children compared to the previous year.

The proportion of students who are less active has decreased by 2.2%, or 143,000.

This brings activity levels back in line with the 2018 pre-pandemic report, and shows the incredible impact of various campaigns and efforts across the board.


increase in active pupils

This includes the efforts of schools to increase pupil physical activity levels during school time, resulting in a 2.2% in-school rise of activity amongst pupils.

There are still various inequalities in physical activity to be addressed

Despite the positive numbers, there is still work to be done. Despite the decrease in less active children, there has been a 3.3% (250,000) increase in the number of children & young people doing no activity at all compared to the 2017/18 academic year when the survey began.

Gender and socio-economic groups

The report also shows that boys are still more likely to be active than girls. 50% of boys are now doing an average of 60 minutes a day, compared to 45% of girls. It also shows that children from less affluent areas are less likely to be active. This is in comparison to those from more affluent families (42% in comparison to 52%).


31% of disabled children were ‘less active’ (<30 mins of PA each day) this year, compared to 29% of non-disabled children. This means that almost a third of disabled children are missing out on the well-established benefits of being active.

These figures show that there are still various inequalities to be addressed. This data can provide a good starting point for the coming year.

With this said, there has been an increase in female participation in sports such as football. This is particularly since the UEFO European Women’s Football Tournament, with 100,000 more girls regularly taking part.

Our Children and Young People (CYP) team use this data alongside other crucial insight. It will inform decisions and priorities in the coming year. You can find out more about the team on our Children and Young People page.

Many of the activities that children and young people are doing more of take place within group settings. This includes dance, gym and team sports. This suggests that the social element is an important factor in the recovery of activity levels.

Active play (62%), team sports (58%) and active travel (57%) are the most common activities across all children and young people.

This overall growth [in physical activity levels] 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.

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of Sport England

The report also shows clearly that, as children and young people get older, their activity preferences change.

Higher activity levels are associated with better wellbeing

Children & young people’s wellbeing is still down. However, those with higher activity levels continue to have higher levels of wellbeing.

Physically literate children are more likely to be active and to have higher levels of mental wellbeing. With that said, physical literacy levels are yet to recover following the pandemic.

Looking ahead

While the publication shows positive signs of a recovery in children & young people’s activity levels, the release also highlights a number of areas where there is more to be done.

The results provide evidence that active children experience higher levels of mental wellbeing, and remind us of the role that sport and physical activity can play in supporting wellbeing.

Worryingly though, recovery has clearly not been consistent across demographic groups, and the inequalities we saw prior to and then throughout the pandemic remain as pressing as ever.

Find out more about the Children’s Active Lives Survey

Active Norfolk play a key role in influencing education funding and priorities. We want ensure priority is placed on getting children and young people active in Norfolk. To find out more about our work, or read the full Children’s Active Lives Survey report, visit our Active Lives Survey page.