Children’s physical activity returns to pre-pandemic levels

Young boy wearing shorts and t-shirt bowling at an indoor bowling green. Other children are waiting in the background.

The number of children in Kent and Medway taking the recommended level of physical exercise has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The latest results from Sport England’s "Active Lives Children and Young People Survey", which covers the 2021 to 2022 academic year, shows that activity levels have recovered. They are now at pre-pandemic levels with more than 14,000 children returning to the recommended 60 minutes of sport or physical activity a day.

In Kent and Medway, 46.6% of children and young people achieved the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended level of activity.

Alongside the growth in the number of active children and young people, the survey found that activity levels among those with a disability or long-term health condition were the same as those without, secondary aged girls’ activity levels are increasing, and more are playing football.

The survey provides more evidence of the benefits of getting active for mental health, active children and young people are happier, worry less and feel less lonely.

However, there are still 53.4% of children and young people who are not active enough. The research found that there are still inequalities, activity levels are lowest for those in school years 3 to 4, the gender gap between boys and girls has re-emerged and those from less well-off families and from black, Asian and other ethnicities are least likely to be active.

To address these inequalities, Active Kent and Medway has utilised Sport England’s National Lottery investment to consult with over 2000 young people across the county to develop tailored activities based on the needs of the least active young people.

This consultation has helped to redesign our School Games competitions and opportunities, while also engaging more than 800 participants in after-school activities, 247 of whom received free school meals, 243 had a disability and 246 were from culturally diverse communities.

The evaluation of this ‘youth voice’ approach clearly demonstrated the improvements in both physical and mental wellbeing. In addition to the 18% increase in the number of young people who took part in the after-school clubs becoming ‘active’, the evaluation also showed that over 50% of young people stated that their resilience and self-belief had improved.

There was a much-needed increase in happiness and life satisfaction scores, providing further evidence of the mental health benefits of being active. View the evaluation report.

Active Kent and Medway also supported 30 schools to access £282,000 of Department for Education funding to open their facilities and provide weekly activities for young people. Developing funded delivery plans with these schools, led to more than 5,000 young people participating in 133 after-school clubs, including skateboarding, futsal, trampolining and climbing. The programme also enabled 158 community organisations to access school sports facilities as the easing of lockdown restrictions began.

Kent County Council member Mike Hill

Ensuring children and young people have opportunities to be active whatever their age, gender, ability, or circumstance is vital during these formative years. The physical, mental and social benefits are far reaching, providing positive experiences that will stay with them for life

Mike Hill KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services

Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: "Ensuring children and young people have opportunities to be active whatever their age, gender, ability, or circumstance is vital during these formative years. The physical, mental and social benefits are far reaching, providing positive experiences that will stay with them for life".

Graham Razey, Active Partnership Board Chairman, said: "It is absolutely fantastic to see that so many of our children and young people are being active for the recommended time each day. However, even with these great statistics, it still means that more than one in two of our young people across Kent and Medway are not living active enough lives.

"At Active Kent and Medway our vision is more people, more active, more often, and this encapsulates what we want to achieve for those young people who aren’t currently meeting the guidelines. I am very proud that we have supported so many schools in accessing funding, and look forward to growing this agenda for the benefit of even more young people across our partnership area."

Further information

Active Lives Survey

Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People survey measures the sport and physical activity levels of children and young people aged 5-16 years across England. Administered by schools, the survey also includes measures for wellbeing, attitudes towards sport and physical activity and volunteering. The findings are being used to shape future policy and investment in school sport.

Find out more about the Active Lives Survey.

Active Kent & Medway

Active Kent & Medway is one of 43 Active Partnerships in England. Our principal funders are Sport England and Kent County Council, whose strategies set the direction of our work and activity. Kent County Council also hosts the partnership in its offices, providing support services, and is the employer of our staff team. We also work with and are supported financially by Medway Council and the 12 district and borough councils across the county. Our Vision: More people, more active, more often. Our Mission: Improving lives through sport and physical activity.

Visit the Active Kent & Medway website.


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