Skip to main content

Family exercising playing football.

Disabled children and young people will be supported to be more physically active following the publication of new guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs). The guidelines are underpinned by research from our Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Bristol and Disabilities Rights UK.

The guidance will support disabled children and young people to improve their physical and mental health throughout their lives. The infographic used to present the guidelines is the first of its kind to be co-produced with disabled children, young people and their families.

New Guidelines

The new guidelines recommend disabled children and young people:

  • Undertake 120 to 180 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week 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, and by undertaking several different activities including walking or cycling.
  • Complete challenging, but manageable, strength and balance activities three times per week, which 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 exercise into bite size chunks of physical activity throughout the day to make it more manageable.

Addressing the Gap

The UK Chief Medical Officers, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Professor Sir Michael McBride, Professor Sir Gregor Smith and Sir Frank Atherton, said:

“We are delighted to present this report and infographic which are an important step forward in addressing the gap in physical activity guidelines for disabled children and disabled young people. We encourage schools, parents, carers and healthcare professionals to communicate and promote these guidelines across their wider professional networks to enable appropriate physical activity opportunities for disabled children and disabled young people in their communities.”

Regular physical activity has physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages. However, children and young people with disabilities are less likely to be active than non-disabled children, which can lead to health disparities, which can widen as they become older.

Benefits of Physical Activity

The evidence found physical activity can be equally beneficial for disabled children and young people as non-disabled children, tackling misinformation about the risk. Ensuring children and young people, regardless of their disability status, are as physically active as possible is crucial to their health and wellbeing - both now and in the long-term.

Professor Brett Smith, Director of Research, Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said:

“The UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines for disabled children and disabled young people are a UK first. The scientific evidence is clear that physical activity is safe and has multiple health benefits for disabled children and disabled young people. The infographic, that has been co-produced with over 250 disabled children and disabled young people, their parents and carers, aims to communicate these guidelines in an accessible and meaningful way. Together, the guidelines and infographic are a vital stepping stone to improving the health and wellbeing of disabled children and disabled young people.”

Find out more:

  • Read the full press release from the Department of Health and Social Care.
  • We are a global leader in research, and our research and teaching addresses significant questions facing us now and in the near future. Learn more about Professor Brett Smith in our Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences.
  • Our BSc Sport and Exercise Sciences and BA in Sport. Exercise and Physical Activity are unique. Our students study traditional sport and exercise subjects, like psychology and physiology, alongside more contemporary topics. Visit our website to learn more about studying with us.
  • We have a vibrant community of postgraduate researcher students (PGRs), supervised by leading academics. Our research environment enables our PGRs to flourish and produce stimulating and exceptional work. This is reflected in the international research recognition and employment they gain. Find out more about post graduate research.