Only one fifth of 5 – 15 year olds are getting enough physical exercise

A Public Health England briefing* published today (Monday 19 October) has made recommendations to promote walking to tackle the levels of inactivity within children.

The briefing, titled ‘What works in schools and colleges to increase physical activity’, shows that only one in five 5-15 year olds are currently achieving the recommended levels of physical activity (at least 60 minutes a day). It endorses the promotion of active travel, such as walking and cycling, as a route to tackling inactivity and has acknowledged the work of Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, in promoting active travel within schools.

The briefing recommends the use of monitoring and evaluation so that any changes in physical activity are recorded and cites Living Streets’ Travel Tracker as an example. Travel Tracker is a digital resource for classrooms which makes it easy and fun for pupils and teachers to record daily journeys to school.

This tool is used as part of WoW (Walk Once a Week), Living Streets’ year-round incentive scheme which rewards children who walk to school at least once a week with a collectible WoW badge.

Emily Humphreys, Director of Policy and Communications, Living Streets says:

“Physical inactivity now accounts for one in six deaths in the UK and we’re growing more and more unhealthy. We must act now to turn our sedentary lifestyles into more active ones and it’s vital that we educate our younger generation on the benefits of walking.  

‘’Swapping four wheels for two feet on short journeys such as the walk to school is free, accessible and easy, and it’s a great way for children and families to build a healthy habit into their daily routine.”

St. Godric’s RC Primary School in Durham saw an increase in its walk to school rate from 34 per cent to 62 per cent following its participation in WoW and the use of Living Streets’ Travel Tracker. A year later it has increased further to 70 per cent.   

The school’s head teacher Catherine Craig says:

“The WoW scheme is easy-to-run and manageable. It only asks families to walk once a week, every week in a month. The Travel Tracker is fun and interactive, and the children like using it to record their daily journeys.

“The badges are an effective mechanism to drip feed the messages around walking to school all through the school year. There is huge excitement when the badges are handed out at the end of each month, together with class of the month trophy.”

WoW currently encourages almost 400,000 children to get walking across the UK, has increased walking to participating primary schools by 26% on average, and been shown to cut driving by more than a third.

The Government has committed to increasing the walk to school rate from 46 per cent to 55 per cent by 2025. Living Streets is keen to see funds allocated to this commitment to ensure this target is met.

*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.

The Youth Sport Trust (YST) and Association of Colleges Sport (AoC) were commissioned to work with PHE to develop the content of the briefing. The report is supported by the Department for Education, Department of Health, Department for Transport and Department for Culture, Media and Sport.