en cy
Overall Physical Activity Levels


The UK-wide Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for physical activity recommend that to receive the health benefits from physical activity:

Children under 5 years old (Early Years)
Children who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (3 hours), spread throughout the day. For children who cannot yet walk unaided, physical activity should be encouraged from birth, especially through floor-based play and water-based activities in safe environments.

Children and young people (5-18 years old)
All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day. Participation in vigorous intensity activities should be incorporated at least three days a week; these include any activities that strengthen muscles and bones.


The benchmark used by the Research Work Group to allocate a grade to this indicator was: The percentage of children and young people who meet the recommended physical activity guidelines.

Survey Data

The National Survey for Wales (NSW, 2016-17) asked parents/guardians of children aged 3-17 to report the amount of time their child was active on each day in the previous seven days. Parents were informed that they should consider activities that left their child feeling warm or at least slightly out of breath and that these activities could include playing sport, cycling, running or brisk walking either at school, outside school, with a club, with friends or on their own. Results of the survey demonstrated that 51% of children were active for at least an hour seven days a week. A higher proportion of boys were active for at least 1 hour a day in comparison to girls (55% B, 47% G). Due to the differences in method used to gather data, results are not comparable to previous surveys (i.e., Welsh Health Survey, 2014).

The HBSC/SHRN (2017) asked young people aged 11-16 how many days they were physically active for a total of at least 60 minutes per day. The survey found that 18.4% of young people reported being physically active for at least an hour on seven days per week. More boys than girls reported being active (23% B, 14% G). A decline in the proportion of young people reporting being active is observed from 11 years of age to 16 years of age (25.7%-11 years, 22.7%-12 years, 18.4%-13 years, 15.1%-14 years, 12.4%-15 years 12.2%-16 years). The proportion of White and Black Minority Ethnic children reporting being active was similar (18.3% W, 19.1% BME). These findings are similar to previous results from the same survey. In 2015 17.8% of young people reported being active for a total of at least 60 minutes per day, whereas in 2014 this figure was 15% and in 2010 19% were active.

Swanlinx Map

Click the image to view the map

Read More
  1. 1

    The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Survey (2013/14), on 9,055 Secondary School children and young people aged 11-16 year olds, provides data on percentage of children and young people taking part in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) every day of the week. The survey showed that only 15% of of children and young people met the recommendation of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) every day of the week. The survey found that boys were more active than girls across all age groups and socioeconomic status, with 20% of boys of boys and only 11% of girls meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines. However, there was little difference in overall MVPA found across difference socioeconomic status, as well as, across different regions of Wales. In addition, there was a small downward trend in physical activity for boy and girls between 2006 and 2014, with physical activity levels going from 21% in 2006, to 19% in 2010 to 15% in 2014.

  2. 2

    The Welsh Health Survey (2014) on children aged 4-15 years old, asked how much exercise the children had undertaken on each day in the last week. The children were asked to include exercise done at school as well as outside of school. The survey showed that 35% of children participated in MVPA for at least 1 hour every day. A gender difference was seen between boys and girls, with a higher proportion of boys (40%) participating each day compared to girls (29%). In this survey there has been no significant change in the levels of physical activity since 2007. The concerning results from this survey are that 12% of boys and 15% of girls did not take part in any physical activity in the last week.

Deciding on a Grade

The Research Working Group assigned a D+ to the physical activity category to reflect the findings from both surveys. The percentage of active young people was between 18% and 51%. By taking the average of both surveys (34%), based on the new grading scheme proposed by the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance, this represented a D+ score. This grade has increased from the D- grade awarded in 2016, however this is largely reflective of the change in grading criteria set by the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance. Additionally, changes to the way data was gathered in the new National Survey for Wales in relation to the previous Welsh Health Survey make comparisons, or analysis of trends between data difficult. HBSC/SHRN data is comparable to previous years and analysis of trends reveals limited change in PA levels of children aged 11-16 since the previous surveys in 2015 (17.8% active), 2014 (15% active) and 2010 (19% active).

  • Both NSW and HBSC use self-reported measures of physical activity to obtain data.
  • There continues to be no large scale studies measuring the physical activity behaviours of young people objectively. This is particularly important given the evidence of over-reporting of physical activity levels observed via self-report when compared to accelerometer measured physical activity (Health Survey of England, 2008).
  • There is limited data available for the physical activity levels of children of all ages, particularly during the early years (children under 5).
  • The impact of intervention programmes aiming to increase physical activity need to be quantified.
  • The best available evidence indicates that the majority of young people in Wales need to increase their physical activity levels. This can be achieved through a range of behaviours including dance, sport, active transportation and active play.
  • A significant effort needs to be made to address very low levels of physical activity in girls.
  • Efforts should be made to address the decline in physical activity observed with age.
How to Improve
Data Sources
  • Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Wales Survey 2013/14 - link
  • Welsh Health Survey 2014 - link