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14 Jan 2021 | 19:19

A report into the activity levels of young people has underscored the vital role that organisations across the Sport for Development Coalition can play in the coming year. 

The Active Lives Children and Young People’s Survey, which is co-ordinated by Sport England, shows that activity levels were increasing during the autumn 2019 term but, as expected, dropped across the spring and summer 2020 terms due to disruption caused by the storms and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The survey shows that young people were generally successful in adapting their habits – thanks largely to support from individuals and organisations who deliver activities – to include new forms of exercise, though the types of activity they were able to do changed drastically.


This has impacted participation in team sports and swimming the most, whilst the biggest gains were in walking, cycling and fitness. 

The lack of available choice also led to a significant drop in physical literacy. Sport England says this means it is possible the pandemic will have long-term consequences for how children feel about sport and activity, increasing the need for the provision from organisations across Coalition’s network. 

This week the Sport for Development Coalition began to introduce its new ‘Adapt, Support, Respond’ campaign messaging and policy position. The aim is to highlight the contribution of organisations that have again adapted their provision during lockdown, and who will play a major part in the recovery from the pandemic.

Active Lives Survey

The aim is to raise awareness of the wider social outcomes that network members are generating, including health outcomes from physical activity. 

Key findings from the two publications include:  

  • 3.2 million (44.9%) children met the Chief Medial Officer guidelines and did an average of 60 or more minutes of physical activity a day when averaged across the year. But the number of active children decreased by 1.9% compared to the same period 12 months ago. 
  • The number of physically active children and young people fell by more than 100,000 in the summer term (down 2.3% compared to the same period 12 months ago). 

Restrictions, while impacting everyone, hit certain demographic groups harder than others: 

  • Gender: Across the whole academic year, boys (47%) remained more likely to be active than girls (43%). However, girls adapted better than boys to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. During the summer term, girls’ activity levels increased by 2.4%, with just over 100,000 more girls meeting the recommended level of physical activity across mid-May to late-July compared to summer 2019. 
  • Family affluence: there remains a large gap in activity levels between children from less affluent and more affluent families. 
  • Ethnicity: the gap between the numbers of active children from White British (54%) and Asian (46%) and Black (32%) backgrounds grew during the summer term. 

For more information about the survey (with links to the published data, visit

Sport England's breakdown of the key guidelines and a range of useful FAQs remains available here.  

Sport England’s mission to help as many people as possible to get active is more important than ever, and a unified and collaborative approach is essential – as advocated by the Sport for Development Coalition. 

Sport England’s forthcoming new 10-year strategy seeks to help the people and organisations who delivery sport and physical activity to recover from the massive challenges of the past year and to look beyond Covid-19 to tackle the biggest issues of the next decade. 

To register for the launch of the new strategy on Tuesday 26th January (1000-1145), click here