24,000 Children in Cumbria are meeting new Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for Physical Activity


Almost half of children in Cumbria now take part in an average of 60 minutes of physical activity a day and meet the new recommendations. 

  • The number of active children at Primary age has increased slightly by 1.8%
  • 36.8% of children and young people do an average of 30 minutes or more a day at school, while 53.8% do so outside school
  • Significant inequalities remain in the areas of family affluence, gender and race. 
  • Almost half of children and young people (43.4%) in Cumbria are doing the recommended average of 60 or more minutes of physical activity a day.

This finding comes from Sport England’s ‘Active Lives Survey for Children and Young People’ report into the activity levels of the nation’s children. This is the second survey of activity levels for children aged 5-16 years and covers the period September 2018 - July 2019.

Government guidelines recommend that children and young people should average 60 minutes a day of activity and when possible get 30 minutes of their daily physical activity in the school day and 30 minutes outside of school. Nationally the figures show that there has been a rise in children getting active outside of school. In Cumbria 53.8% of children and young people do an average of 30 minutes or more a day outside of school, compared to 36.8% at school.

Only just over a third (37.3%) of Secondary aged young people get 30 minutes of their daily physical activity through the school day.  The figure is 6.7% below that of the national figure at 44.0%.

As part of the 2016-21 strategy Towards an Active Nation, Sport England is already investing £194m in children and young people throughout England, within its remit of responsibility for sport and physical activity outside of school from the age of 5.

At a national level a few activities such as active play and informal activity, swimming and team sports have seen an increase in the proportion of children taking part.

At the other end of the scale, in Cumbria 17,600 children and young people (30.5%) are doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and is a reminder of how much more needs to be done. In the middle, another 15,000 (26.1%) children are ‘fairly active’ taking part in average of 30-59 minutes a day.

The inequalities that were surfaced by the first report last year remain, with children from the most affluent families more active (54%) compared to the least affluent families (42%) while boys are more active than girls at every age from five up.  This difference can be seen within the districts also with Eden and South Lakeland maintaining figures above national average in many aspects of the report. 

The survey also shows that active children are happier, more resilient and more trusting of others and it has also shown a positive association between being active and higher levels of mental wellbeing, individual development and community development.

Active Lives Survey for Children and Young People provides the most comprehensive overview of the sport and physical activity habits of children in England. It looks at the number of children
taking part in a wide range of sport and physical activities (ranging from dance and scooting to active play and team sports) at moderate intensity, both at school and out of school. The report is based on responses from over 130,000 children aged 5-16 in England during the academic year 2018/2019, making it the largest study of its kind.

Ipsos MORI who conducts the survey randomly select 30 primary and secondary schools in Cumbria every term to take part in the Active Lives Survey for Children and Young People.  Active Cumbria, the County’s Active Partnership based within Cumbria County Council’s Public Health Service provide logistical support on behalf of Sport England in the administration of the survey.

Bruce Lawson, Senior Manager (Development) at Active Cumbria said:

“As being a new survey with a relatively small sample size, it’s too early to see any trends in the data, but the results do give us a good benchmark for where things are and an early indication of where support is required. The current activity levels in secondary schools is worrying and with this evidence we can influence and advocate for a shift in approach.

“Activity levels in Eden and South Lakeland are by far proportionally higher than in Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle and Copeland. This follows the national picture in that those communities with higher levels of deprivation will see young people from low affluence families being least likely to be active.

“Active Cumbria will continue to work with schools to improve these activity levels and in collaboration with a wide range of partners will continue to advocate for system change and help communities to be more active, improving lives right across our county. This whole system approach is required to help more people find the health and wellbeing benefits that physical activity brings.”

Significant inequalities remain when looking at children’s activity levels: 


  • While there have been increases in activity levels across all levels of family affluence; children and young people from families who are less affluent are still least likely to be active (42% of children in this group are active for an average of 60 minutes+ a day, compared to 54% of children and young people from families of high affluence). 
  • They are also least likely to enjoy being active – 43% of children from low affluence families say they enjoy being active vs 59% from high affluent families (a 16% gap). Boys from the least affluent families are more likely to be active than girls. 


  • While there have been increases in both boys’ and girls’ activity levels, boys are more likely to be active then girls with a gap nationally of 319,200 between the numbers of boys who achieve the recommended amount of sport and physical activity (51% or 1.8m) and the number of girls that do (43% or 1.5m). 
  • In years 9-11 (ages 13-16) there has only been an increase in activity levels for girls, and not boys, with an increase of 3.5% (29,800 number) doing an average of 60+ minutes a day. 


  • Asian and black children are most likely to do less than an average of 30 minutes activity a day. 

Other interesting points to note are:


  • How positively children and young people feel about sport and physical activity generally declines with age. 
  • Activity levels peak when children are aged 5-7, and again at the end of primary school (age 11-12). Children are more likely to be active at these points than at any other time during their primary or secondary education. Children and young people aged 13-16 (years 9-11) are the least likely to be active.
  • There are more active children than less active children across all age groups.   


  •  Active play and informal activities remain the most common way for children in younger age groups (Years 1-6) to be active. 
  • Team sports become more common as children get older. By secondary school age, team sports are the most common group of activities.  


  • Active children and young people are more likely to report higher levels of mental wellbeing. 


  • The first Active Lives Children and Young People survey showed that enjoyment above all other elements of physical literacy is the biggest driver of children’s activity levels. 
  • The new survey shows that girls are less likely to enjoy being active than boys with the biggest gap between the genders found around confidence and enjoyment. 
  • More physically literate children are more likely to be active.
  • More physically literate children are happier, more resilient and more trusting of others. 
  • The number of positive attitudes is the key driver of how active children are. 


  • 12,400 young people in Cumbria volunteered to support sport and physical activity at least twice in the last twelve months with the highest number (3,500) volunteering in South Lakeland. This figure was 4.3% above that of the national figure of 38.0%

 Sue Sanderson, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Schools and Learning, said:

“The picture from the Active Lives Survey for Children & Young People is really mixed for Cumbria with some progress but some worrying decline. What we’re certain of is that there is more to do both in and out of school at both primary and secondary age level. I’m also very encouraged at the high take up by schools in Cumbria to take part in the survey (which is voluntary) and the numbers of schools becoming involved in various initiatives that Active Cumbria run”.

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Little Ireland | Cleator Moor | Cumbria: 24,000 Children in Cumbria are meeting new Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for Physical Activity
24,000 Children in Cumbria are meeting new Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for Physical Activity
Little Ireland | Cleator Moor | Cumbria
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