National Fitness Day


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National Fitness Day 2023 is on Wednesday 20th September. This is a great day to highlight the role that physical activity plays in keeping us healthy and encourage everyone to take part in some activities to have fun and raise their fitness level. Physical activity is crucial to keeping our bodies working properly and what better place to start than teaching our young people these important lessons in the early years?

This year, the organisers want to shift the focus and say: “While bringing people together through physical activity on National Fitness Day has a hugely positive impact, we’re encouraging you to view this day as just one step in a much bigger journey. Because after all, your health is for life.”

A brief history of National Fitness Day

The origins of campaigns to raise fitness in countries have been credited to a number of groups, individuals and organisations across the world, and over 100 countries now participate in some way with their own version of National Fitness Day. The organisers of the UK event, UK Active, credit the late Energie Fitness founder, Jan Spaticchia, with organising the first day in 2011. They have subsequently founded an award in his honour.

National Fitness Day has grown almost exponentially from its humble beginnings and over the last decade, more and more people, clubs and businesses have been involved. Nowadays, the day reaches over 20 million people, of all ages and across the whole of the UK, as they participate in one way or another, be that a one-mile walk/run, a yoga class or a sponsored gym session. There are free events up and down the country and many TV channels raise awareness of the day too.

What does fitness mean?

Some people may have negative reactions to the word ‘fitness’ as they remember school cross-country runs in the pouring rain, cold showers or feeling uncomfortable in largely male-dominated gym environments. But these negative thoughts do not account for the changes that have happened over time and the huge burgeoning in fitness research and businesses over the last twenty years.

Fitness is not about having a certain body shape or looking like a bodybuilder. Fitness is about doing enough physical activity to keep your body healthy, your joints moving well and to help maintain mental health too. Getting fit can also be whatever you want it to be as long as it involves some physical activity. It can be running, swimming, dancing, gardening, yoga… It can be social, something you do with friends, a local team or by joining a group, or you can work on your own and at your own pace. You don’t even have to leave the house nowadays as there are many online courses and webinars that you can join in with from the comfort of your own living room.

The benefits of physical activity reports many benefits from physical activity (see diagram below), and the links between physical activity and mental health have long been established now.

What’s important is that as early years practitioners, we understand the need to pass on the important messages about healthy living to the next generation. It’s also important to remember that children pick up on our unconscious bias, so we need to be careful not to let any of our own potentially negative attitudes to physical activity undermine the positive messages we need to give.

The Government guidelines recommend 180 minutes per day of physical activity for 1-5s but this can include the following:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Messy play
  • Scooting
  • Cycling
  • Skipping
  • Climbing
  • Playing in the playground
  • Participating in organised games and sports

This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of things that count as physical activity.

For under-1s, the recommendation is for at least 30 minutes of tummy time each day.

How to get involved in National Fitness Day

The great thing about National Fitness Day is that there are a lot of resources already available to help you plan your own day but here are some ideas we’ve come up with.

Visit the National Fitness Day website

Visit to register your interest and find lots of information about local events that are running in your area. There is also a toolkit with lots of digital resources, and a link to the ITN campaign, Fitness for Everyone, with lots of videos to inform and guide people about healthy activity.

Do a YouTube search for relevant fitness videos

A few years ago in lockdown, Joe Wickes became a household name for his fitness videos and thousands of school children (and adults) in lockdown used his videos every morning to energise themselves for the day. He subsequently did some BBC Children in Need videos called the “Five Minute Move” suitable for early years which you can access here. There are lots of similar videos online too so look around.

Invite a local provider in to run some sessions

Many local sports or physical activity providers would welcome the chance to come into your setting and run a free session. It will help them with their marketing, and it is a free and easy way to introduce the children to different activities. Think about local sports clubs, dance and gym clubs as well as things like taekwondo, judo and yoga. You could even make a week or month of it and have different sessions each day.

Set up a diary or display

Keep a record of the physical activity that you do over the day. You could do this like a diary, a picture board or other display. Identify everything that counts as physical activity and link this to keeping fit so that the children start to equate many activities with ways to stay fit.

Visit Twinkl

Twinkl have a lot of National Fitness Day resources and ideas on their website from activity cards and work out videos to yoga stories and personal hygiene after sports posters.

And finally…

If the ideas above are not enough, try some of these:

  • Set up an indoor or outdoor obstacle course
  • Hold a sponsored event involving a physical activity
  • Find a shallow hill to roll down and climb up
  • Play tag
  • Jump in muddy puddles
  • Learn a country dance
  • Dig in the sand/garden
  • Sing some activity songs such as “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”

Whatever you do, remember to send us your photos and stories to [email protected].

References and resources – All our health

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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