It was disheartening to read that just 53% of six-year-olds are doing 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. The figures for girls are even worse – fewer than half of six-year-old girls meet this target.
The Chief Medical Officers recommend that children are physically active for on average 60 minutes per day across the week. Being active every day provides a foundation for a healthier and happier life. Regular strength and balance activities are as important as cardiovascular activities. Being strong makes all movement easier and increases our ability to perform regular daily tasks.
This 60 minutes doesn’t need (and shouldn’t) all be achieved at school. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity in school (Active 30) and encourage your pupils to be active for a further 30 minutes outside of school This approach means being active becomes part of daily life.
Though it is important for children to minimise the amount of time spent sitting or being sedentary – long periods of not moving should be broken up with at least light physical activity. And children should also take part in a variety of different types of physical activity. This helps to develop movement skills, muscular fitness and bone strength.
What does moderate to vigorous physical activity mean?
Being active in any way provides health benefits however the more intense this activity is, the bigger the benefits for the same amount of time. As the intensity of the activity increases our heart rate, breathing rate and energy consumption increase further.
To understand if an activity is moderate or vigorous, try the ‘talk test’ – if you can talk but not sing whilst doing the activity, it is a moderate-intensity activity. If you have difficulty talking without pausing, this means it is a vigorous activity.
Moderate activities include walking and cycling. Vigorous activities include playing football, dancing or skipping. Sprinting, weightlifting, and press-ups are classed as very vigorous activities.
What can I do to encourage children to be more active?
As we head into the autumn and winter, with darker nights and colder weather, it can be more challenging to be active every day. Here are five ideas to support and encourage children to move more:
- Active travel – encourage pupils to walk, scoot or bike to school (the first week in October is Cycle to School Week). This is an easy way to incorporate more activity into the standard day.
- Go for a swim, play football, dance, climb – many pools have fun or social swimming sessions and there are multiple sports clubs and groups in your community, share details of these with your classes or put posters up on your PE noticeboard.
- 10 minute shake-up – Start the day with a Change for Life 10 minute shake-up game or encourage pupils add it to their day when they get home from school.
- Take part in our 10th anniversary Deathlon – try out 10 different sports or activities over the course of a month, spending at least 30 minutes on each activity.
- Introduce active bursts – break up the school day with bursts of activity (before lessons, during lessons, at the end of lessons…). We created Fit for Life to give schools everything you need to make being active part of the whole school day.
Remember, you don’t have to start big. Small changes can make a big difference over time. Help children to gradually increase their activity levels so it becomes something sustainable rather than setting up plans and goals that no one will stick to or reach.
You always feel better for being active. We want as many people as possible to protect their future health and start their journey to a healthier life now.