Last Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Approaches to physical activity in the primary years

What is this?

A series of short video clips first establish the contribution physical activity makes to the wider health and wellbeing agenda, then offer three examples of different approaches which are placed in the context of their local authority priorities. The impact on learners’ mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing and their continued readiness to learn is highlighted.

Who is this for?

This is most relevant for those working in at local authority level, ELC or primary sectors. It is hoped the resource will encourage practitioners, staff groups and school communities to consider how they might develop approaches to increase physical activity in their learning community.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice?

Watch the examples of incorporating physical activity into the curriculum and life of the establishment. Use the following reflective questions to help you improve your practice in this area:

  • To what extent would any of the models exemplified work in your setting?
  • How could you adapt the models shown to suit your own context?
  • How could you link such activity with the curriculum in a meaningful and manageable way?
  • How could you incorporate daily physical activity into your establishment?
  • What barriers might you encounter in taking such an initiative forward and how could you plan to overcome these?


PDF file: Further reading (36 KB)

PDF file: The Daily Mile - a factsheet for schools (450 KB)

Explore the exemplar

What was done?

These films highlight a range of approaches which have been used in different settings to embed daily physical activity into the life of the school.


This video shows Elaine Wyllie (MBE), former headteacher at St Ninian's Primary, who started the use of an all-weather path around the playing field in their playground to allow all learners to participate in a Daily Mile. The Daily Mile was introduced to improve childrens’ fitness levels.




Curriculum for Excellence states that children and young people should experience daily opportunities to engage in physical activity before, during and beyond the school day. At early and first levels, providing physical activity is a responsibility of all within health and wellbeing.

Through their engagement in physical education, physical activity and sport, it is hoped that children and young people from three to 18 will establish a pattern of daily physical activity which, in turn, is most likely to lead to sustained physical activity in adult life.

The minimum recommended amount of physical activity for children and young people is 60 minutes every day.

What was the impact?

Children are fitter, more focussed, have more energy and are happier as a result of participating in this daily physical activity.

Their cognitive development has improved?

  • Their capacity to learn has improved due to their improved physical fitness.
  • Children are more confident and their self-esteem has improved.
  • Parents report that their children are sleeping and eating better.