Weight Gain in Children in the UK: 10 Tips to Be More Active

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 4, 2023
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Lockdown has had an effect on all of us, whether it put a stop to working, moved the office into the dining room or had us working harder than ever, we have all felt the extra strain and stress.

It will also have had a massive impact on children with the schools closing in March, and while we had seen research that indicates adults have gained weight in lockdown we hadn’t seen if lockdown had affected our children in a similar way.

Quick Summary

  • To help your children be more active and avoid weight gain, instill a regular exercise routine.
  • Set short-term workout goals so that your children can see their progress when keeping fit.
  • Family races, children's yoga, skipping rope, and basic gymnasium are examples of exercises you can perform with your children.
  • Leading by example in terms of workouts is the best way to motivate your children to copy your lifestyle.
kid on weighing scale

With children out of school, out of routine and mostly confined to their homes for the last couple of months, we decided to survey parents to find out.

After surveying over 2,000 parents from around the UK, we discovered that the average child has gained 6lbs since the beginning of lockdown, with 11% of children gaining over 10lbs.

When we categorised these results by region, we found that the West Midlands has experienced the highest average weight gain among children, followed by Wales and Greater London.

These are UK regions ranked from highest average weight gain among children to lowest:

UK regional map - final

  1. West Midlands +7.9lbs
  2. Wales +7.6lbs
  3. Greater London +7.5lbs
  4. North East +6.8lbs
  5. Scotland +6.6lbs 
  6. Northern Ireland +5.5lbs
  1. East Midlands +5.1lbs
  2. Yorkshire and the Humber +5.1lbs
  3. East of England +4.8lbs
  4. North West +4.1lbs
  5. South East +3.5lbs
  6. South West +2.9lbs

Sixty-two percent of the parents we surveyed admitted that they were concerned about this recent weight gain, and believed that it was due to a reduction in daily exercise and a change in diet.

The most popular reasons that parents stated were behind the reduction in daily exercise were:

  • Schools being closed - 65% selected this as one of the main reasons
  • Lack of time to spend exercising with children - 41%
  • Lack of space to exercise at home - 34%

The most popular reasons that parents stated their children’s diet had changed were:

  • Schools being closed - 54%
  • Increased snacking - 24%

When we saw that lockdown had been having a negative impact on children, we asked our team of experienced personal trainers to create a simple guide that the whole family can follow to help them lead a more balanced lifestyle and find quick and easy exercises to do without leaving the house.

Top 5 Tips for Instilling a More Balanced Family Lifestyle:

With children out of school, out of routine and mostly confined to their homes for the last couple of months, we decided to survey parents to find out.

After surveying over 2,000 parents from around the UK, we discovered that the average child has gained 6lbs since the beginning of lockdown, with 11% of children gaining over 10lbs.

When we categorised these results by region, we found that the West Midlands has experienced the highest average weight gain among children, followed by Wales and Greater London.

These are UK regions ranked from highest average weight gain among children to lowest:

UK regional map - final

  1. West Midlands +7.9lbs
  2. Wales +7.6lbs
  3. Greater London +7.5lbs
  4. North East +6.8lbs
  5. Scotland +6.6lbs 
  6. Northern Ireland +5.5lbs
  1. East Midlands +5.1lbs
  2. Yorkshire and the Humber +5.1lbs
  3. East of England +4.8lbs
  4. North West +4.1lbs
  5. South East +3.5lbs
  6. South West +2.9lbs

Sixty-two percent of the parents we surveyed admitted that they were concerned about this recent weight gain, and believed that it was due to a reduction in daily exercise and a change in diet.

The most popular reasons that parents stated were behind the reduction in daily exercise were:

  • Schools being closed - 65% selected this as one of the main reasons
  • Lack of time to spend exercising with children - 41%
  • Lack of space to exercise at home - 34%

The most popular reasons that parents stated their children’s diet had changed were:

  • Schools being closed - 54%
  • Increased snacking - 24%

When we saw that lockdown had been having a negative impact on children, we asked our team of experienced personal trainers to create a simple guide that the whole family can follow to help them lead a more balanced lifestyle and find quick and easy exercises to do without leaving the house.

1. Lead by example

exercising with toddler

As with most forms of parenting, children are a lot more receptive to a change in lifestyle or a new practice if the parents are doing it as well.

Incorporate ‘exercise time’ with family time, and make sure everyone is involved, so that the kids see it as a fun way to spend time together as well as a way to make positive adaptations to their life.

My friend picked up some CrossFit equipment for his kids as he's a big enthusiast. Now they can train together in his CrossFit home gym.

 

These are UK regions ranked from highest average weight gain among children to lowest:

UK regional map - final

  1. West Midlands +7.9lbs
  2. Wales +7.6lbs
  3. Greater London +7.5lbs
  4. North East +6.8lbs
  5. Scotland +6.6lbs 
  6. Northern Ireland +5.5lbs
  1. East Midlands +5.1lbs
  2. Yorkshire and the Humber +5.1lbs
  3. East of England +4.8lbs
  4. North West +4.1lbs
  5. South East +3.5lbs
  6. South West +2.9lbs

Sixty-two percent of the parents we surveyed admitted that they were concerned about this recent weight gain, and believed that it was due to a reduction in daily exercise and a change in diet.

The most popular reasons that parents stated were behind the reduction in daily exercise were:

  • Schools being closed - 65% selected this as one of the main reasons
  • Lack of time to spend exercising with children - 41%
  • Lack of space to exercise at home - 34%

The most popular reasons that parents stated their children’s diet had changed were:

  • Schools being closed - 54%
  • Increased snacking - 24%

When we saw that lockdown had been having a negative impact on children, we asked our team of experienced personal trainers to create a simple guide that the whole family can follow to help them lead a more balanced lifestyle and find quick and easy exercises to do without leaving the house.

2. Instill a routine

Pre-pandemic, most children enjoyed and benefited from a strong routine, involving regular outdoor time, PE classes and afterschool clubs. This is a crucial time for children, especially younger kids, to use up excess energy and let off some steam.

As a parent, you don’t need to implement a strict schedule, but it will benefit the whole family to allot the same amount of time to exercise  each day, or certain activities, like a bike ride, on the same day each week so kids can start to look forward to these sessions and embrace them as being part of everyday life.

You can check out some fitness articles and find a routine that might work for you and your family.

These are UK regions ranked from highest average weight gain among children to lowest:

UK regional map - final

  1. West Midlands +7.9lbs
  2. Wales +7.6lbs
  3. Greater London +7.5lbs
  4. North East +6.8lbs
  5. Scotland +6.6lbs 
  6. Northern Ireland +5.5lbs
  1. East Midlands +5.1lbs
  2. Yorkshire and the Humber +5.1lbs
  3. East of England +4.8lbs
  4. North West +4.1lbs
  5. South East +3.5lbs
  6. South West +2.9lbs

Sixty-two percent of the parents we surveyed admitted that they were concerned about this recent weight gain, and believed that it was due to a reduction in daily exercise and a change in diet.

The most popular reasons that parents stated were behind the reduction in daily exercise were:

  • Schools being closed - 65% selected this as one of the main reasons
  • Lack of time to spend exercising with children - 41%
  • Lack of space to exercise at home - 34%

The most popular reasons that parents stated their children’s diet had changed were:

  • Schools being closed - 54%
  • Increased snacking - 24%

When we saw that lockdown had been having a negative impact on children, we asked our team of experienced personal trainers to create a simple guide that the whole family can follow to help them lead a more balanced lifestyle and find quick and easy exercises to do without leaving the house.

3. Don’t push it

parent and child jogging

Sometimes there are days when you just can’t be bothered to put on your trainers, we all have them, and children are no different.

It’s important to make sure parents are striking a good balance with exercise, so their children can still enjoy it.

So if your kids are just not feeling it, take them for a quick walk around the neighbourhood, because a little bit of activity is better than none, and hopefully they will be refreshed to take on the next activity session you have planned.

Read other weight loss articles to gather more ideas.

These are UK regions ranked from highest average weight gain among children to lowest:

UK regional map - final

  1. West Midlands +7.9lbs
  2. Wales +7.6lbs
  3. Greater London +7.5lbs
  4. North East +6.8lbs
  5. Scotland +6.6lbs 
  6. Northern Ireland +5.5lbs
  1. East Midlands +5.1lbs
  2. Yorkshire and the Humber +5.1lbs
  3. East of England +4.8lbs
  4. North West +4.1lbs
  5. South East +3.5lbs
  6. South West +2.9lbs

Sixty-two percent of the parents we surveyed admitted that they were concerned about this recent weight gain, and believed that it was due to a reduction in daily exercise and a change in diet.

The most popular reasons that parents stated were behind the reduction in daily exercise were:

  • Schools being closed - 65% selected this as one of the main reasons
  • Lack of time to spend exercising with children - 41%
  • Lack of space to exercise at home - 34%

The most popular reasons that parents stated their children’s diet had changed were:

  • Schools being closed - 54%
  • Increased snacking - 24%

When we saw that lockdown had been having a negative impact on children, we asked our team of experienced personal trainers to create a simple guide that the whole family can follow to help them lead a more balanced lifestyle and find quick and easy exercises to do without leaving the house.

4. Short term goals

Children tend to embrace the short-term benefits of a new regime, then the long term ones, that tend to resonate more with adults.

With that in mind, communicate what the short-term pro’s are to living a more balanced and active lifestyle, and make it so they can relate to the benefits.

For example, tell them how exercising more regularly will enable them to run faster on the football pitch, or be able to hold a handstand for longer.

These are UK regions ranked from highest average weight gain among children to lowest:

UK regional map - final

  1. West Midlands +7.9lbs
  2. Wales +7.6lbs
  3. Greater London +7.5lbs
  4. North East +6.8lbs
  5. Scotland +6.6lbs 
  6. Northern Ireland +5.5lbs
  1. East Midlands +5.1lbs
  2. Yorkshire and the Humber +5.1lbs
  3. East of England +4.8lbs
  4. North West +4.1lbs
  5. South East +3.5lbs
  6. South West +2.9lbs

Sixty-two percent of the parents we surveyed admitted that they were concerned about this recent weight gain, and believed that it was due to a reduction in daily exercise and a change in diet.

The most popular reasons that parents stated were behind the reduction in daily exercise were:

  • Schools being closed - 65% selected this as one of the main reasons
  • Lack of time to spend exercising with children - 41%
  • Lack of space to exercise at home - 34%

The most popular reasons that parents stated their children’s diet had changed were:

  • Schools being closed - 54%
  • Increased snacking - 24%

When we saw that lockdown had been having a negative impact on children, we asked our team of experienced personal trainers to create a simple guide that the whole family can follow to help them lead a more balanced lifestyle and find quick and easy exercises to do without leaving the house.

5. Rewards

boy with ice cream

If your children have done something to be proud of, then naturally it’s normal for them to be rewarded for that good behaviour. The same can be applied to pursuing a more active lifestyle.

So if your kid has been really positive about the regular family exercise sessions, then you can show them that you’re rewarding their attitude and effort with something they’ll appreciate, like some game time, or a sweet treat - consider protein power for your kids if you want to make it healthy. And yes, protein powder is safe for your kids as long as nutrition guidelines are not exceeded.

Here are some protein powder recipes you can try:

  1. Protein powder ice cream
  2. Protein powder donut
  3. Protein powder waffle

Protein shakes are really great too and they can even come in a delicious vanilla flavor.

Younger children especially will start to associate ‘active time’ with something good, and will be more eager to participate. Teenagers may be more cynical with their motivations, but the result is still the same!

Quick and simple exercises that everyone can get involved with:

kids exercising

If your children have done something to be proud of, then naturally it’s normal for them to be rewarded for that good behaviour. The same can be applied to pursuing a more active lifestyle.

So if your kid has been really positive about the regular family exercise sessions, then you can show them that you’re rewarding their attitude and effort with something they’ll appreciate, like some game time, or a sweet treat - consider protein power for your kids if you want to make it healthy. And yes, protein powder is safe for your kids as long as nutrition guidelines are not exceeded.

Here are some protein powder recipes you can try:

  1. Protein powder ice cream
  2. Protein powder donut
  3. Protein powder waffle

Protein shakes are really great too and they can even come in a delicious vanilla flavor.

Younger children especially will start to associate ‘active time’ with something good, and will be more eager to participate. Teenagers may be more cynical with their motivations, but the result is still the same!

1. Children’s yoga

Yoga can have just as much of a positive impact on a child’s mental and physical wellbeing, as it does on an adult’s.

There are numerous online yoga tutorials available for free, dedicated to children, that are easy for the whole family to follow, which will help improve their strength and flexibility.

Maura Blackstone, RYT 500 yoga teacher, certified fitness instructor, and founder of Empower Your Wellness, emphasizes the need to create a safe yoga space for kids.

According to Blackstone, minimizing injury risk for children’s yoga includes sticking to safe poses for kids, not forcing a child into a particular shape, allowing for safe movement exploration, and of course, fun!

Most kids have good mobility and core strength anyway, so don’t be surprised if they jump into a downward dog with minimal effort!

2. Family races

family races

Running comes naturally to most children, and is a simple exercise that is great for cardiovascular fitness. However, simply going for a run can be incredibly tedious for the majority of kids, especially if young.

Luckily it’s incredibly easy to jazz up a basic run, and all parents need to do is take inspiration from Primary School sports days!

Head to the park with some spoons and eggs for the ‘egg and spoon race’, grab a few old pillow cases for the ‘sack race’ and watch your kids have a blast competing against their parents and/or siblings.

Protein shakes are really great too and they can even come in a delicious vanilla flavor.

Younger children especially will start to associate ‘active time’ with something good, and will be more eager to participate. Teenagers may be more cynical with their motivations, but the result is still the same!

3. Body weight exercises

Some parents might be agonising over the lack of ‘gym’ equipment they have at home, but they need not worry, body weight calisthetics exercises are much better for children to do whilst they’re still growing. We talk more about this in our weights vs calisthetics article.

Body squats, push ups, lunges and the plank are just a couple of movements that are highly effective in building strength and muscle without any weights.

These can be incorporated into a family workout to music, or simply encouraged whilst going about everyday life, for example, the whole family does 10 squats whilst they brush their teeth, or before you sit down for movie night, everyone does a 60 second plank.

To make your training harder, you can add on these additional equipment:

 

Running comes naturally to most children, and is a simple exercise that is great for cardiovascular fitness. However, simply going for a run can be incredibly tedious for the majority of kids, especially if young.

Luckily it’s incredibly easy to jazz up a basic run, and all parents need to do is take inspiration from Primary School sports days!

Head to the park with some spoons and eggs for the ‘egg and spoon race’, grab a few old pillow cases for the ‘sack race’ and watch your kids have a blast competing against their parents and/or siblings.

Protein shakes are really great too and they can even come in a delicious vanilla flavor.

Younger children especially will start to associate ‘active time’ with something good, and will be more eager to participate. Teenagers may be more cynical with their motivations, but the result is still the same!

4. Skipping rope

child skipping rope

The skipping rope has long been a favourite amongst children, and rightly so. It provides a perfect balance of fun and fitness, that can be adapted to different ability levels.

To top it off it’s great for coordination and cardiovascular fitness - there’s a reason why boxers and other professional athletes still use it in training!

A long rope can be used for group skip sessions, or you could use individual ropes and have each member of the family participate in a skipping competition.

Make sure to check surroundings though if doing this inside and stand back. If you do have space outside you could even consider getting a larger rope where the whole family can take part and turn it into a fun game.

5. Basic gymnastics

It’s a normal occurrence to see children doing cartwheels, rolly pollys and handstands, but for some reason most adults and teenagers grow out of it.

Try and incorporate basic gymnastics as fun outdoor play, but be careful not to try and do the same movements as your kids, or you might end up pulling a muscle (unless you are a trained gymnast of course!).

Tyler Sellers, fitness coach at Total Shape said,

Whether we have been spending more time at home over lockdown, or working flat out, lockdown will have had an impact on all of our daily routines and it is important to consider how much this change will also have impacted our children.

 

When we saw that the majority of parents were concerned about their child’s weight gain we knew we could help. Even the simplest of exercises such as jogging on the spot or basic yoga routines will soon have positive effects on wellbeing and fitness levels.

 

A balanced diet can also have long lasting positive effects on children, providing them with all of the necessary vitamins and protein they need, but If it is a struggle to get your child eating fruit and veg, a daily multivitamin could be a big help.

Make sure to check surroundings though if doing this inside and stand back. If you do have space outside you could even consider getting a larger rope where the whole family can take part and turn it into a fun game.

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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
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