44% of Children are Active in Cumbria

December 7, 2018

Results of a new study have been released by Sport England which shows that 44% of school aged children are active in Cumbria which means they are taking part in sport and physical activity on average for more than 60 minutes a day. The new Active Lives survey looks at data from the academic year 2017-18.

47 schools in Cumbria were supported by Active Cumbria to take part in the study, which is the largest study of its kind and gives a comprehensive insight into how children in the County are taking part in sport and physical activity both in and out of school.

Figures show that 18.9% of Cumbrian children are meeting the Chief Medical Officers recommendations of more than 60 minutes of activity a day, every day of the week compared to 17.5% nationally.

Alarmingly, figures also show that 31.5% of children in Cumbria are less active, meaning they do fewer than 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Sadly, this mirrors the figures for adults with 23.7% of adults (aged 16+) in Cumbria are inactive, meaning they are doing less than 30 minutes of activity a week.

There are variations within the districts with Eden coming top of the list with 29.3% of children achieving 60 minutes or more every day, compared to Allerdale where only 14.4% of children are achieving this.

The survey also looks at the differences between participation in sport and physical activity in and out of school and found there's not a lot of difference in the amount of sport and physical activity that takes place inside school, compared to activity levels outside of school, so both have a critical role to play. But children in Eden and South Lakeland are above the England average when participating in sport and physical activity outside of school for more than 30 minutes a day.

Sport & Physical Activity Levels Overall
 Active Every Day
<60 mins a day
Active Across the WeekFairly ActiveLess Active
>30 mins a day
England 17.5% 25.7% 23.9% 32.9%
Cumbria 18.9% 25.5% 24.1% 31.5%
Allerdale 14.4% 30.1% 24.8% 30.7%
Barrow 16.7% 22.7% 24.1% 36.5%
Carlisle 16.3% 25.2% 24.3% 34.3%
Copeland 18.3% 24.0% 21.7% 36.0%
Eden 29.3% 26.2% 25.7% 18.9%
South Lakeland 21.5% 25.3% 25.2% 28.1%


Results of the survey show some significant inequalities in activity levels, based on family income.

In total, 39% of children in the least affluent families do fewer than 30 minutes of activity a day, compared to 26% of children from the most affluent families.

And while 77% of all children can swim 25 metres unaided by the time they leave primary school, this figure drops to 42% for children from the least affluent families and is at 86% for the most affluent.

Other findings include:

  • The type of activity preferred changes as children get older. ‘Active play’, such as tag or scootering, is the most popular form of activity for younger age groups, with team sports growing in popularity as children get older. By school Years 7 and 8, team sports are the most popular and remain so through to age 16.
  • There is a gender divide between activity levels of boys and girls. Boys are more likely to be active every day than girls – 20% (boys) versus 14% (girls). This difference increases as girls get older, with a large gap opening from the end of primary school (Years 5 and 6).
  • Children and young people in Years 5-6 and 7-8 (top end of primary, lower end of secondary, ages 9-13) are more likely to be active every day, with young people in Years 9-11 (ages 13-16) the least likely to be active every day.

The survey, carried out independently by Ipsos MORI, also covers the ‘outcomes’ of sport and activity and helps to show the benefits of being active on both the physical and mental wellbeing of children, but also their personal development and that of their community.

Figures show increases in these benefits as children are helped to be more active and the chief executive of Sport England Tim Hollingsworth, says now is the time for action.

“I am calling for a national focus on the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children and for the whole system to be united in delivering change. Our children deserve better and Sport England is determined to play its part,” he said.

“Parents, schools, the sport and leisure industry and government all have a role to play in addressing and increasing childhood activity. This research is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and is a big wake-up call for all of us. We all care about the health and wellbeing of our children. These results tell us that what is currently being done to support them is not enough and change is required. We know that lots of factors affect behaviour and there is no single answer to the problem but listening to young people and what they want is the best starting point.”

At Active Cumbria, we support schools with PE & School Sport provision through a range of measures including support with the deployment of PE and School Sport Premium funding, professional CPD, the 100 Mile Challenge - a whole school approach to physical activity available to all schools, facilitation of PE Network meetings, delivery of Cumbria School Games, latest government policy, and keeping PE Subject Leads up to date with the latest Community and NGB Offers.

Deborah Earl, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Community Services at Cumbria County Council said:

“I welcome the results of this survey, and it is comfort to see that Cumbria is better than the national average in a number of areas. On the face of it, it could be perceived as a positive story, that 25,000 children in Cumbria are meeting national recommended guidelines and leading active lives, but collectively we must recognise the challenge ahead of us to help those that are not meeting the recommended guidelines, there is more to do to help children be more active.

Active Cumbria have some great opportunities for schools to be involved in and provide a wide range of support for the Sport and Physical activity sector too. 

Through encouraging more children to become physically active we will enable future generations to achieve their personal goals and reach their full potential.

Everyone should consider what part they can play in ensuring our next generation is a happy, active and healthy one.”

Further information from the survey on the attitudes of children to sport and activity showing what they do and don’t like doing will be available in March 2019. As we analyse the data from this survey further, more information will be available on our insight page at www.activecumbria.org/insight