Physical activity

Physical activity

Information, guidance, and resources about physical activity in schools.

Why physical activity is important

Physical activity is necessary for a healthy life. It has many benefits and you can often do it at no cost at all.

Physical activity helps learning. According to government research, it helps pupils:

  • have positive mental wellbeing
  • have a positive sense of self
  • reduce anxiety and stress
  • increase their self-confidence and peer acceptance
  • with their academic achievements
  • improve concentration and attention
  • have better physical health such as muscular strength, bone health, cardio respiratory fitness and maintaining a healthy weight

How much physical activity children should be doing

According to the government’s Childhood obesity: a plan for action guidance (2017):

“The UK chief medical officers recommend that all children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day.

Many schools already offer an average of two hours of PE or other physical activities per week. However, we need to do more to encourage children to be active every day.

Every primary school child should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. At least 30 minutes should be delivered in school every day through active break times, PE, extra-curricular clubs, active lessons, or other sport and physical activity events, with the remaining 30 minutes supported by parents and carers outside of school time.”

How much sport schools should be doing

The government recommends that schools should:

  • offer two hours of PE a week
  • make sure primary school pupils get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day

Support your staff to exercise

Research by the World Health Organisation shows that exercise has benefits for both physical and mental health. It can help staff:

  • reduce the risk of illnesses
  • manage long term health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity
  • improve mood
  • reduce stress, anxiety and depression

You can find more information on the Mental Health Foundation website.

To support your staff to get exercise, you should:

  • give them information on the benefits that even small amounts of exercise have towards health and wellbeing
  • encourage staff to take breaks and go outside at lunchtime
  • put workplace challenges in place, such as taking the stairs and not the lift or swapping the car for a bike twice a week
  • promote active travel, such as cycling or walking to school

National policy and guidance

Childhood Obesity: a plan for action (HM Government, Updated 2017)

What Works in Schools and Colleges to Increase Physical Activity?

A briefing for head teachers, college principals, staff working in education settings, directors of public health and wider partners (HM Government & Public Health England, 2015)

Physical activity for children and young people: PH17 (NICE, 2009)

Physical activity resources

Modeshift Stars

Free, government funded programme of support around active travel including how to write a travel plan and awards.


National resources aimed at primary level children and their families on healthy eating and physical activity.

10 minute shake ups

Ten-minute physical activities with Disney and Change4Life. Easy to do at any time of the school day.


Local school sports support, including CPD opportunities, The Daily Mile, School Games Programme and advice for effectively using the Primary PE and Sport Premium Funding.

Youth Sport Trust

Resources including lesson plans and activity ideas, including how to make maths active and how to get pupils doing 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

This girl can

Activities and posters encouraging girls and young women to take up sport.

Living Streets

Resources and support to encourage walking.

Staff and physical activity

Information and advice about physical activity for employees.


Guidance on:


Government recommended physical activity guidelines.


Information about active travel.


Information on the benefits of exercise.

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