CMO Guidelines

The following info-graphics outline the duration, frequency and type of physical activity required to achieve general health benefits for different age ranges as set out by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers.

Children from birth to 5 years should aim for 180 minutes of physical activity every day. Physical activity should be encouraged from birth, particularly through floor-based play and water based activities in safe environments. All under 5s should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (being restrained or sitting) for extended periods (except time spent sleeping).

CMO guidelines: Physical Activity guidelines for early years (for infants who are not yet walking)

CMO guidelines: Physical Activity guidelines for early years (for children who are capable of walking)

CMO guidelines on physical activity for pregnant women

CMO guidelines for children from birth – 5 years

  • Further resources

SSEHS Active Physical Activity guidelines for the early years

YST: Early Years Physical Literacy Framework

  • Useful websites

British Heart Foundation Physical Activities for Children

Active Matters

Keep sedentary behaviour to a minimum

  • All under-fives should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (being restrained, sitting or lying) for extended periods except time spent sleeping.

Although there is limited research exploring the health consequences of sedentary behaviour in children under five, there is emerging evidence that sedentary behaviour in the early years is associated with overweight and obesity as well as lower cognitive development.

Sedentary behaviour goes against the child’s natural tendencies to be active. Physical restraint, such as long periods in pushchairs or highchairs, is a common barrier to physical activity that is unique to this age group.

  • The GM Under 5s team recommend

- Reducing time spent in highchairs, infant carriers or buggies.

- Reducing time spent in front of the TV or other screens.

- Replacing motorised travel with active travel all or part of the way.

Patterns of sedentary behaviour are usually set in the early years and remain relatively stable over time so it’s important to minimise this type of behaviour from an early age.

  • In England, in 2012, around one in ten boys and girls aged 2 to 4 years met the recommended levels of activity (BHF Physical Activity Statistics 2015). 
  • There is a tendency across the whole population to lead sedentary lifestyles with the population including young children.
  • For children and young people, 22% of pupils in Greater Manchester are starting school in reception class with excess weight, which increases to over 35% when leaving primary school (GM Moving The Plan for Physical Activity and Sport 2017-21).


The benefits of leading an active life in the early years

The benefits of leading an active life in the early years are numerous and they include:

  • Development of motor skills
  • Improves cognitive development
  • Contributes to a healthy weight
  • Enhances bone and muscular development
  • Supports learning of social skills including; personal, social and emotional outcomes, fair play, co-operation, language and communication, confidence, optimism, resilience, sense of self-belief, behavioural flexibility.


Under 5's Nursery Pack

Developed with Davies Sports to help encourage and inspire children to develop their physical literacy from an early age. Including products to help children develop their motor skills, improve cognitive development, enhance bone and muscular development and learn social skills.

The Importance of Cross Lateral Movement

This video is a must watch and links to what we discuss at our U5's training around the midline and all physical skills that need to be in place to support reading & writing.