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How to get children active, as half of 6-year-olds fail daily exercise target

Kids should be exercising for an hour every day.

Sam Wylie-Harris
Thursday 11 August 2022 17:00 BST
Get the kids active (Alamy/PA)
Get the kids active (Alamy/PA)

It’s so easy for children to be less active. Today’s technology brings a lure to stay inside and play games or watch telly, which is is why the results of a new survey won’t cause much surprise.

According to research published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, almost half of British six-year-olds are not meeting their daily recommended exercise targets.

Academics from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre at the University of Southampton provided 712 six-year-olds with accelerometers, to measure heart rate and movement, and asked them to wear them for six consecutive days.

The study revealed 47% of children that age are not doing enough physical activity.

But the recommended targets can seem like quite a lot. Experts say children aged five to 18 should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, and if that’s a school day, unless they’re signed up to umpteen clubs, it can be quite a challenge. So, how do we get ours kids to move their bodies more?

Start cycling


If you’re worried about the cost of buying new bikes, think about joining something like Bike Club ( – the UK’s first kids’ bike subscription service. For as little as £4.50 per month for balance bikes, they can learn to ride and enjoy cycling – and bikes can be swapped when they grow taller, and handed back to be enjoyed by someone else.

Make outdoor chores and gardening fun

Washing the car, cleaning ground-floor windows, sweeping the patio, potting plants – with all of this comes bending, kneeling and lots of moving!

Wait for squeals of delight when those seeds sneak out of the potting tray further down the line, and who doesn’t love putting on their wellies and squeezing out a sponge while the car gets a wash? Getting some pocket money in return might add to the enthusiasm too.

Weekend adventures

Walking doesn’t have to be boring. You may have to tear them away from their smartphone or video game, but once they’re out and about, they’ll love it – so how about making it part of your family weekend routine?

Try reintroducing a sit-down Sunday roast, for example – and then walk your way to an adventure playground or nearest open green space to connect with nature.

If you want to stay closer to home, build an obstacle course in the garden – anything that feels like a game with prizes to be had is sure to get them racing around in no time!

Inquisitive kids will love Treasure Trails, who have a wide range of self-guided trails all over the country, from self-guided walks to mystery hunts and detective treasure trails for an interactive adventure (booklet from £9.99).

Meet, move and play

Try ParkPlay ( – an initiative which encourages families to get together on Saturday mornings for a free two-hour long session of fun games and activities in the park. Mark your diary for 9.30am and check out their website for the nearest location.

Dance, dance, dance!

It’s never too soon to get your toddler or kids of all ages to move to music. With endless live streams on TikTok and various free dance tutorials on YouTube, chances are you’ll want to get in the groove, too. Although you can always just whack on some tunes and freestyle, of course!

Dancing is a real endorphin boost and a great way to get kids to express themselves and develop self-confidence too. To kick it up a notch, encourage them to create their own playlist. Did someone say kitchen disco?

Learn new skills

Whether it’s ball games, breaking up the week with a swimming trip, or enrolling them in a sports extracurricular – developing skills and being active often go hand-in-hand.

This could even be a chance for you all to learn a new skill together – but even if you’re just shouting from the sidelines or being a glorified taxi service ferrying them to and from a class, you’ll all get something out of it.

Learning new skills can be really motivating, and it’ll help their social skills too. Plus, being able to share the experience with you and tell you all about it will be a boost all round.

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