Breaking Sedentary Habits: How Evolve is Improving Children’s Physical Activity Levels

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Breaking Sedentary Habits: How Evolve is Improving Children’s Physical Activity Levels

The 2022/23 Active Lives Children and Young People survey reported that only 47% of children are meeting the Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines, of 60 minutes or more exercise per day. 

The implications of low physical activity levels for children can be severe and long-lasting. The most apparent effect is on children’s physical health, with low exercise levels being linked to obesity and cardiovascular health problems. Equally, there is a key influence on mental health, with lower levels of physical activity being linked to reduced wellbeing and even behavioural issues. Academic achievement may even be affected, due to the positive relationship between physical activity and cognitive development. 

The need for daily physical activity is clear. However only 47% of children are meeting current guidelines, and some pupils are at an even greater disadvantage. Children from minority ethnic groups and children from less affluent families have lower physical activity levels than the average across all demographics. The cost-of-living crisis has further intensified this issue, as parents or carers are being forced to reduce the regularity of extracurricular activities due to financial constraints.

Schools are the perfect environment to address these issues due to the amount of time children spend at them. However, with rising pressures being placed on examination results, P.E. lessons are often replaced with additional English and Maths lessons. Evolve Health Mentors take the burden off school staff by working with pupils before, during and after school time, to improve their physical activity levels, without compromising on core curriculum time.

To measure changes to physical activity patterns after the Health Mentoring programme, children complete the Wellbeing Compass survey before and after each term. Questions in this domain track children’s perception of their physical activity, by asking how often they participate in physical activity sessions, for example, at lunch or during after school clubs. 

On average, all mentees improved their scores within this domain and were participating in more moderate to vigorous physical activities after just one term of mentoring. Mentees at one school in London had a particularly outstanding improvement, by improving their physical activity scores by 40%, whilst the scores for pupils not working with a Health Mentor declined.

So how did Health Mentors help them to achieve this?

Practical interventions are the primary focus for improving children’s physical activity levels, and these begin at the start of the school day, with Wake and Shake. Exercise in the morning has been shown to increase alertness, which is incredibly important for children to ensure they retain the knowledge they acquire in the school day. Health Mentors also lead lunchtime playground activities, to ensure that children can refocus before afternoon lessons, which they otherwise might feel lethargic in. 

Most importantly though, Health Mentors lead after school activities across a variety of different team sports, from basketball to tennis. This not only benefits pupils’ physical health, but can also help to boost their confidence and social skills. It also provides disadvantaged children with the opportunity to experience different sports that they otherwise may not have accessed due to financial restrictions.

Individual and group mentoring sessions are also offered to children and young people who need a little more support. This is where we teach pupils about the importance of exercise and work with mentees to identify physically engaging activities and games that they would enjoy. This blend of mentoring, education and opportunity provided the foundation for significant improvements in physical activity levels after only 12 weeks. 

If you would like to learn how Health Mentors could provide these services in your school, contact us at

Read the full report by Sport England here.