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UK's Chief Medical Officers publish the first-ever guidelines on physical activity for disabled children and young people

17 February 2022

The guidance, which recommends daily physical activity levels, will support disabled children and young people to improve their physical and mental health throughout their lives.

Brett Smith, Director of Research, Professor of Disability and Physical Activity in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Durham University explained the importance of the guidelines:

"Physical activity guidelines are a central component of a coherent and comprehensive policy framework for public health action. They are an important information resource, guide national goal setting, and inform policy development to help the public be physically active and improve health, including work tackling wider structural and social determinants. Guidelines also serve as primary benchmarks for physical activity monitoring and surveillance initiatives."

The guidelines are underpinned by Durham University, University of Bristol and Disability Rights UK's research. The infographic they are presented in is the first of its kind to be co-produced with disabled children, young people and their families. You can find an animation of the infographic linked here.

The new guidelines recommend disabled children and young people:

  • Undertake 120 to 180 minutes of aerobic physical activity weekly at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity. This can be achieved in different ways (for example, 20 minutes per day or 40 minutes 3 times per week) through activities such as walking or cycling.
  • Complete challenging but manageable, strength and balance activities 3 times per week are particularly beneficial for muscle strength and motor skills. For example, indoor wall climbing, yoga, and modified sports such as basketball or football.
  • When first starting to exercise, build up slowly to avoid injury
  • Break down their exercise into bite-size chunks of physical activity throughout the day to make it more manageable

Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK, said:

“At Disability Rights UK we are really pleased to have worked with Durham University on the development of the UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines for disabled children and young people.

“This is an essential resource to demonstrate the health benefits disabled children and young people can achieve through regular physical activity.”

“Disabled people have a right to get active in ways that work for them, and these guidelines show how important this is. The evidence-based infographic is not only a highlight of the project but a positive example of co-production in practice.”

“Disabled children and young people, their parents and carers, health and social care professionals, and key disability and sports organisations have all been involved in co-producing the infographic. The final version results from their involvement and input into this project.”

Read more here.

A Disabled man is pictured in the gym, they are leaning against a large metal (box shaped) squat rack