Physical activity levels drop during primary school

Physical activity levels drop during primary school



Children are less physically active by the time they leave primary school.

A new study, conducted by the University of Bristol and funded by the British Heart Foundation, has found physical activity levels to significantly drop between the ages of 6 and 11.


How were the results reached?

2,132 children from 57 schools across the South West of England participated in the research with their physical activity monitored between 2012 – 2018.

To monitor activity levels, children taking part wore an accelerometer for five days.

From the accelerometer, researchers could garner the number of minutes per day children participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA).


What are the results?

The UK's chief medical officers recommend at least one hour of MVPA per day.

  • 61% of children in Year 1 did at least an hour of MVPA per day. Only 41% achieved this target by Year 6.
  • On average, more than an hour of exercise is lost per week between the ages of 6 and 11, with a greater drop at the weekends.
  • Girls showed a marked drop, with the percentage of those doing at least an hour of MVPA per day decreasing from 54% to 28% by the time they finished primary school.
  • Girls aged 6 were found to engage in less MVPA and more sedentary time on both weekdays and weekends than boys of the same age.
  • Girls' MVPA declined at a faster rate, leading to the gap between boys and girls increasing between ages 6 and 11.
  • By age 11, there are differences by BMI group. For example, a child who is obese at the age of 6, and remains so at 11, took part in 10 minutes less MVPA per weekday at age 11 than a similar child of healthy weight at both ages.


What does the research tell us?

As children get older and move towards the teenage years, more needs to be done to make sure they stay active.

Early intervention staregies such as:

  • After-school and school holiday clubs
  • Promote weekend and holiday activities


1 in 3 children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. This is not just a statistic, it’s the lives of children and it needs to change.