NICE – Encouraging children and young people to be physically active
Ensure there is a coordinated local strategy to increase physical activity among children and young people, their families and carers.

The strategy should ensure:

  • there are local indoor and outdoor opportunities for physical activity where children and young people feel safe​
  • individuals responsible for increasing physical activity are aware of national and local government strategies as well as local plans for increasing physical activity​
  • partnership working is developed and supported within local physical activity networks
  • physical activity partnerships establish and deliver multi-component interventions involving schools, families and communities. (Partners may include: schools, colleges, out-of-school services—out-of-school services are defined as those providing activities that take place outside the formal school day, possibly as part of extended school services (and can involve using school facilities during the evening, weekends and school holidays)—children's centres and play services, youth services, further education institutions, community clubs and groups and private sector providers)​
  • local factors that help children and young people to be (or which prevent them from being) physically active are identified and acted upon​
  • local transport and school travel plans are coordinated so that all local journeys can be carried out using a physically active mode of travel. See transport and physical activity in this pathway.

Ensure physical activity initiatives aimed at children and young people are regularly evaluated. Evaluations should measure uptake among different groups (for example, among those with disabilities or from different ethnic backgrounds). Any changes in physical activity, physical skills and health outcomes should be recorded.

Identify a senior council member to be a champion for children and young people's physical activity. They should:

  • promote the importance of encouraging physical activity as part of all council portfolios
    ensure physical activity is a key priority when developing local authority programmes and targets​
  • promote partnership working with council member leads of relevant departments (for example, transport, leisure and health)​
  • explain to the public the local authority's role in promoting physical activity.

Developing physical activity plans for children

Identify groups of local children and young people who are unlikely to participate in at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. Work with the public health observatory, schools and established community partnerships and voluntary organisations to achieve this.

Involve these children and young people in the design, planning and delivery of physical activity opportunities, using the information gathered.

Consult with different groups of children and young people and their families on a regular basis to understand the factors that help or prevent them from being physically active. Pay particular attention to those who are likely to be less physically active. Ensure children and young people from different socioeconomic and minority ethnic groups are actively involved in the provision of activities. Also ensure those with a disability (or who are living with a family member who has a disability) are actively involved.

Use the information gathered to increase opportunities for children and young people to be physically active and to plan dedicated programmes that tackle any inequalities in provision. For further recommendations on community engagement, see the NICE pathway on community engagement.

Planning the provision of spaces and facilities for children

  • Ensure physical activity facilities are suitable for children and young people with different needs and their families, particularly those from lower socioeconomic groups, those from minority ethnic groups with specific cultural requirements and those who have a disability.​
  • Provide children and young people with places and facilities (both indoors and outdoors) where they feel safe taking part in physical activities. These could be provided by the public, voluntary, community and private sectors (for example, in schools, youth clubs, local business premises and private leisure facilities). Local authorities should coordinate the availability of facilities, where appropriate. They should also ensure all groups have access to these facilities, including those with disabilities.​
  • Make school facilities available to children and young people before, during and after the school day, at weekends and during school holidays. These facilities should also be available to public, voluntary, community and private sector groups and organisations offering physical activity programmes and opportunities for physically active play.​
  • Actively promote public parks and facilities as well as more non-traditional spaces (for example, car parks outside working hours) as places where children and young people can be physically active.​
  • Town planners should make provision for children, young people and their families to be physically active in an urban setting. They should ensure open spaces and outdoor facilities encourage physical activity (including activities which are appealing to children and young people, for example, in-line skating). They should also ensure physical activity facilities are located close to walking and cycling routes.​
  • Ensure the spaces and facilities used for physical activity meet recommended safety standards for design, installation and maintenance. For example, outdoor play areas should have areas of shade from the sun and sheltered areas where children can play to reduce the impact of adverse weather.​
  • Assess all proposals for signs restricting physical activity in public spaces and facilities (such as those banning ball games) to judge the effect on physical activity levels.
    Align actions to promote physical activity with strategies to prevent obesity at a community level to ensure a coherent, integrated approach (see the obesity: working with local communities pathway).
Obesity – Stakeholders »Obesity – Stakeholders
Stakeholders – Institutions »Stakeholders – Institutions
NICE Guidance on Diet, Nutrition and Obesity »NICE Guidance on Diet, Nutrition and Obesity
NICE – Physical activity »NICE – Physical activity
NICE – Physical activity strategy, policy and commissioning »NICE – Physical activity strategy, policy and commissioning
NICE – Encouraging children and young people to be physically active
Shape the physical environment to encourage physical activity »Shape the physical environment to encourage physical activity
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