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New physical activity guidelines for disabled children and young people

New physical activity guidelines for disabled children and young people

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have issued new guidelines that say disabled children and young people should be getting 20 minutes of exercise a day and doing strength and balance activities three times a week.

The guidelines, which are the first of their kind for disabled children and young people, will support the improvement of physical and mental health throughout life.

Research from Durham University, the University of Bristol and Disability Rights UK underpins the guidelines, which have been welcomed by our chief executive Tim Hollingsworth, who is also the government’s Disability Access Ambassador for sport and physical activity.

“Today’s guidance is a very welcome step in acknowledging the positive role that regular activity can play in all children’s lives,” he said.

“Our research shows that providing children and young people with positive experiences of sport and physical activity is key to building healthy habits, and we know that disabled young people who are regularly active live healthier, happier lives”.

“Every disabled child and young person has the right to be active. That’s why Sport England continues to prioritise the development of accessible, inclusive and enjoyable opportunities for all children and young people as part of our Uniting the Movement strategy”.

“We recommend that anyone with a role in helping children and young people get active reads this guidance.”

We know that regular physical activity has both physical and mental wellbeing benefits for people of all ages, and the evidence these guidelines are based on clearly shows that disabled and children and young people can benefit from daily activity – even in small bouts.

As with all people, it’s important for disabled children and young people to build up slowly when first starting to exercise, in order to avoid injury.

Breaking down exercise into bite-size chunks is still effective and can help spread activity through the day.

What’s recommended?

  • Disabled children and young people undertake 120-180 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity. This can be achieved in different ways (e.g. 20 minutes per day or 40 minutes, three times per week). For example, walking or cycling.
  • They complete challenging, but manageable, strength and balance activities three times per week, which are particularly beneficial for muscle strength and motor skills. For example, indoor wall climbing, yoga, and modified sports such as basketball or football.

These guidelines will be important not just for the sport and physical activity sector, but for the wider system involved with the health and wellbeing of disabled children and young people.

Research shows that giving children and young people positive experiences of sport and physical activity is the key to building the foundation of lasting positive relationship with physical activity.

That’s why the guidelines are presented in an infographic that was designed in cooperation with disabled children and young people and their families.

It’s also why we, as part of our Uniting the Movement strategy, are doing the same with it comes to decision making and the design of activity opportunities for disabled children and young people.

We’re also improving physical literacy, building on key relationships – including with the Department for Education – to influence the design of physical activity in education settings, and supporting parents and carers to understand the importance of their role as enablers, decision-makers and role models when it comes to physical activity.

In addition to projects such as our investment in the Secondary Teacher Training Programme, and partnerships with the Football Association, LimbPower and Cycling Projects, the guidelines will help the work of the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to get more children and young people physically active.

Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, said: “Physical activity is vital for our health and wellbeing, and Sport England is doing some fantastic work in this space with their Moving Social Work programme, so I welcome the latest guidance from the Chief Medical Officers”.

“I encourage parents and guardians to help disabled children and young people get active for 20 minutes a day so they can improve their fitness levels and enjoy the benefits of exercise.”

Read the guidelines here.


Visit our Inclusive Physical Activity pages on our website to find out more about the work we are doing in Sussex to make physical activity and sport more accessible and inclusive.

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