Childhood inactivity tops Hollingsworth’s starting agenda

07 Dec 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

Tim Hollingsworth has kicked off his tenure as the new Sport England chief executive by launching the findings of a landmark study into childhood inactivity.

The Active Lives Children and Young People survey found that one in three children in England does fewer than 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which equates to half the amount recommended by official government guidelines.

The survey is the first and largest of its kind and offers a comprehensive insight into how children in England are taking part in sport and physical activity, both in and out of school education.

It is based on responses from more than 130,000 children aged 5-16 in England, data taken during the academic year from September 2017 to July 2018.

“This research is a big wake-up call for all of us,” Hollingsworth said.

“Parents, schools, the sport and leisure industry and government all have a role to play in addressing and increasing childhood activity. Our children deserve better and Sport England is determined to play its part."

The survey found that only 1.2 million (17.5%) are meeting the chief medical officer’s guidelines of more than 60 minutes of activity a day, every day of the week.

Poorer children are particularly affected. Among those surveyed, 39% of children in the least affluent families did fewer than 30 minutes of activity a day, compared to 26% of children from the most affluent families.

In addition, the data revealed a gender divide between activity levels amongst boys and girls, with 20% of boys and 14% of girls active every day. The gap between girls’ and boys’ activity levels also widens when coinciding with the end of primary school education.

Hollingsworth added: “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.”

UkActive, the non-profit organisation that represents the active lifestyle sector, seized the findings as an opportunity to lobby for increased government investment.

UkActive chair Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said: “These figures are a national disgrace and show the long-term failure of successive governments to prioritise the health of the most vulnerable people in society – our children.

“We now have the opportunity to work alongside Sport England to make sure that Government prioritises this issue and provides the critical investment and resource to transform Generation Inactive into Generation Active as a matter of urgency.”

“We want to see Government support every community to make better use of our parks, open spaces, school facilities and leisure centres, so that children from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to live happy, active and social lives every day of the year.”


March 2019 will see the publication of the first results of Sport England’s research on the attitudes of children to sport and activity, helping the sector further understand the barriers, motivations and attitude of young people towards physical activity.

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