Physical Activity & Nutrition

Physical Activity & Nutrition Introduction

The rates of overweight and obesity for both children and young people in Scotland are among the highest in the developed world. In response to this, levels of physical activity and nutrition for children and young people have been identified as priority health concerns in Scotland. 

Image shows two cartoonised figures, one female and one male reaching for a ball in the air and reads the following text. What is Physical Activity? Physical activity is key in maintaining a healthy weight for children and young people and can be described as any kind of movement that we do throughout our day. Physical activity includes a wide range of activities such as: sports & structured exercise, walking, dance, play, household chores, gardening, active travel (walking, wheeling, running, cycling, using public transport), and many more…  Regular physical activity helps to improve sleep, maintain a healthy weight, manage stress and improve physical health, mental health, wellbeing and overall quality of life. Children and young people who are physically active have a reduced risk of developing a number of diseases including: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Image shows a picture of a cartoonised fork and spoon and cartoonised white tooth and reads the following text. What is Nutrition? A healthy, balanced diet consists of fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates like bread, rice, potatoes and pasta plus some dairy or dairy alternatives, meat, fish, pulses and other kinds of protein. It is also important to stay hydrated throughout the day.What is Oral Health? Our diets and the nutritional value of the food we eat affects our oral health. Developing and maintaining good oral health for children and young people will lead to strong healthy, teeth and gums and healthy behaviours that will be kept through adulthood.

Physical Activity & Nutrition Health and Wellbeing Information

Health inequalities lead to an increased risk for poor health outcomes and could mean that a young person will not have the same access as their peers to nutritional food or amenities for physical activity and sport. Factors that may affect health inequality include: gender, ethnicity, social class, area deprivation, employment status, educational attainment. Those living in the most deprived areas often consume less fruits, vegetables, fibre, some vitamins and minerals, too much sugars and often have higher prevalence of overweight and obesity. Our diet and activity levels are influenced by a number of factors, many of which are outside our control. For example:

  • Income.
  • Food and drink our friends and families consume.
  • Food available and affordable in our shops.
  • Energy density of food.
  • Types of grocery shops around us.
  • Promotional and marketing influences.
  • Local transport and planning systems.
  • Access to affordable and attractive sports facilities and clubs.
  • Stigma and social expectations.

Physical activity and nutrition are intrinsically linked and should not be separated. The settings in which children and young people are already physically active should be considered and built upon when increasing levels of physical activity and nutritional value of their diet. Improved health outcomes are intricately linked to healthy lifestyle choices. Raising awareness and encouraging positive behaviours in all pupils is essential to improving health outcomes and reducing health inequalities.

The following video clip outlines the value of physical activity for our health and wellbeing and highlights some ways in which children and young people can incorporate more movement into their day.

It is important children from birth to 5 have opportunities for age-appropriate physical activity. You can find out more information about recommended activity levels and types of activities here .


The following infographic contains findings from the Scotland Schools Health and Wellbeing Census 2021/22.

Energy Drinks: more and more children and young people are consuming Caffeinated Energy Drinks (CED's) as part of their diet. Over consumption of CED's can have an impact on physical and mental health and may also be associated with other Multiple Risk behaviours. Click here to view our infographic for more information.

Physical Activity & Nutrition and Education

Physical Activity

Physical activity offerings should be free, easily accessible and include a range of options. The fun and social aspects of the activities should be highlighted. Schools should have comprehensive food and drink policies and school facilities should be improved to promote increased physical activity.

A More Active Scotland Outcomes include:

You can view the outcomes framework here (page 11)

Schools are required to deliver:

  • At least 2 hours of PE per week in primary school.
  • At least 2 sessions of PE per week between S1 and S4.

In 2022, 99 per cent of all primary and secondary schools combined (2,326 of 2,354) were meeting the target level of PE provision, an increase from 96 per cent in 2021 but the same as in 2020.

No significant difference between boys and girls at risk of obesity. However there was a significant difference across age groups. (Scottish Health Survey 2021)  

  2-6 7-11 12-15
Boys 16% 27% 15%
Girls 26% 16% 8%

The Daily Mile Scotland: National Strategy advocates that daily physical activity is good for physical, mental, and social health and helps children concentrate. It has shown to improve health, fitness, body composition, cognition and wellbeing and all schools should encourage this to be taken up where possible. The Daily Mile is active in every local authority in Scotland.


Free school meals are currently available for all pupils in Glasgow from P1 to P5. Around 40% of Glasgow’s school children are currently entitled to a free school meal.

The Scottish Government supports the aim to increase breastfeeding rates in our communities and to support babies to be breastfed for longer. Breastfeeding can protect against obesity and a range of other conditions. 'A healthier future: Scotland's diet and healthy weight delivery plan' identifies breastfeeding is one of the key things a mum can do to give her children the best start in life. The latest infant feeding data (available here ) shows a reduction in inequalities in breastfeeding with increases in breastfeeding being seen in our SIMD 1 neighbourhood areas.   

Oral Health

Oral health messages for children and young people should be included in learning related to nutrition. The three key messages are:

  • Brush teeth and gums last thing at night and one other time with a fluoride toothpaste - ideally 1450 ppm (parts per million) - spit and DON’T rinse.
  • Foods and drinks containing sugar should be kept to a minimum and are best given at mealtimes only.
  • Attend routine check-up appointment with your dentist, every 6 months. Contact your dentist if you or your child are feeling any pain or discomfort, or call NHS 24 on 111.

Childsmile is a national programme designed to improve the oral health of children in Scotland and reduce inequalities both in dental health and access to dental services. Click here to find out more.

Priorities for Physical Activity & Nutrition Work

Glasgow City Health Improvement Physical Activity & Nutrition priorities image Image reads the following text. Title: Glasgow City Health Improvement Physical Activity & Nutrition priorities. Whole school priorities: 1. Engage with local partners and community groups to deliver a consistent approach to physical activity & nutrition activities and learning for children and young people. 2. Increase the number of children and young people with a healthy weight in Glasgow Physical Activity priorities: 1. Increase levels of physical activity for children and young people – fun, free and accessible activities. 2. Encourage active travel to and from school and clubs. 3. Take part in the Daily Mile programme in your school. 4. Encourage children to reach the physical activity guidelines from Public Health Scotland (2019) Nutrition priorities: 1. Increase fruit and vegetable intake. 2. Develop and/or implement food and nutrition guidelines in the classroom and in the school community. 2. Engage with the Glasgow City Food Plan and actions for education (children and young people). 4. Establish a School Nutrition Action Group (SNAG). 5. Increase and develop food literacy and cooking skills. 6. Engage with Good food groups and introduce learning on growing own food.

Public Health Scotland's Physical Activity Recommendations for children and young people (0-5 years, 5-18 years and disabled children) can be found here .

Free School Meals

Free school meals are available from P1 to P5. Children attending early learning and childcare settings are entitled to a free meal on the days they attend. This will be either breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Clothing Grants and Free School Meals - Glasgow City Council


Glasgow Children's Holiday Food and Activity Programme Spring 2024 

Details of the Spring 2024 programme can be found below. 

The Glasgow Children's Holiday Food and Activity Programme - Glasgow City Council


The Glasgow City food plan (2021– 2031)

The Glasgow City Food Plan (2021– 2031), launched in June 2021. The plan aims for Glasgow to be a city where tasty, healthy, affordable food is accessible to everyone. Where local food enterprises are supported and celebrated. Where we produce, provide, purchase and consume food that is good for the planet, good for animal welfare, and for good for those involved in growing, making and selling it. In doing this, we will work towards an inclusive, sustainable, resilient and fair economy for our whole community. You can access the food plan here

Fuel Zone (School Meals)

The Catering and Facilities Management team cater for more than 300 education establishments across Glasgow, serving up almost 34,000 healthy and nutritionally balanced lunches each day.                          Fuel Zone (School Meals) 

Glasgow City Council Glasgow Children's Holiday Food and Activity Programme Summer 2023

The Glasgow Children's Holiday Food and Activity Programme will operate during the Summer 2023 holiday. The Glasgow Children's Holiday Food and Activity Programme - Glasgow City Council

Thrive Under 5

Funded by Scottish Government, Thrive Under 5 (TU5) is a whole systems approach to support healthy weight in the early years. Led by NHSGG&C and for Glasgow, taken forward by GHSCP (Health Improvement), the project recognises that a range of barriers can prevent families and carers from ensuring that their children achieve a healthy weight, including family income, accessibility of affordable fresh foods, knowledge/information to cook using fresh ingredients and access to wider community support. The project aims to overcome these by working with local organisations and affected families.  TU5 is also being rolled out in other NHSGG&C Board areas. Find out more here.

The HENRY approach enacts a unique and highly effective way of working with parents/carers which supports them to help change family lifestyle habits and behaviours and support a healthy start in life for their children.  Practitioners working with families in Glasgow are currently receiving training in this area in a phased approach.   This approach complements TU5 and Health Improvement child health programmes. Find out more here

Physical Activity & Nutrition Curricular Resources

The following resources have been developed and/or quality assured by the Glasgow City HSCP Health Improvement Team. 

Your Body Matters

Stage: Primary School

Description: The Your Body Matters curriculum pack explores the topics of food, nutrition, physical activity, food waste and sustainability and body image and self-esteem and has been updated in 2023 by Health Improvement and Education staff. The pack is made up of Teacher Notes, Lesson plans and Activities for each stage which have been mapped to the benchmarks for assessment outlined within the Curriculum for Excellence. Your Body Matters outlines additional resources to support learning and the implementation of a whole school approach to food, nutrition and physical activity education. 

Your Body Matters is now available to view, download and print from the NHSGGC website. Access the Your Body Matters curriculum pack here

Other Resources for Physical Activity & Nutrition

Here are some additional resources and useful websites for further information about physical activity, nutrition and oral health.


Green Spaces of Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Green Spaces of Greater Glasgow and Clyde is a resource developed by Health Improvement and outlines details and information about available green spaces across the six Health and Social Care Partnerships. Click here   to access it.

Health Apps suitable for use for children, young people and families

The physical activity and nutrition task group for the Glasgow City Health Improvement Strategy have collated a number of apps recommended by the NHS that are free to download and use and fit with NHS messaging for young people. Click here   to access more information.

Learning resources - Scottish Wildlife Trust

Activities for children and young people shared by the Scottish Wildlife Trust to inspire people to take positive action in pursuit of its vision of healthy, resilient ecosystems across Scotland’s land and seas. You can access the resources here 

Weigh to Go

A service for young people who are overweight and want to lose or manage their weight. Regular support from a Weigh to Go Nurse and Slimming World membership. Suitable for 12 - 18 year olds living within the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area with a BMI greater than 25. Find out more or make a referral by clicking here


Early years and parenthood


Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mothers and infants. There are however barriers to breastfeeding in our communities. Find out more here   

UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative - Glasgow City HSCP and Maternity Hospitals are signed up to this accreditation programme enabling support for families with feeding and building close and loving relationships with their baby. Click here for more information. 

Breastfeeding support - There is a range of information and support available for breastfeeding, which can be useful to new mums/mums to be, partners, other family members and friends too.  

Click here to access the National Breastfeeding Helpline website.

Click here to find breastfeeding and infant feeding support in your local area delivered by local Peer support organisations.

Find out about the NCT Glasgow Breastfeeding Buddies here  

Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland Scheme - a national scheme supported by Scottish Government and  local Health Boards. Despite legislation to ensure a breastfed baby cannot be prevented from being fed in a public space or business, many parents are still worried about feeding in public. This scheme aims to encourage businesses and organisations to sign up and display a sticker to show families that the establishment will be welcoming and supportive of their feeding choice. To find out more click here  

A Breastfeeding in Education Scheme is coming soon.  


Childsmile is a national programme designed to improve the oral health of children in Scotland and reduce inequalities both in dental health and access to dental services. Click here   to find out more.

Audio versions of the Childsmile literature 

Here to help you look after your child’s teeth - Access here

Drinks for babies and young children - Access here

Snack Ideas for Children - Access here

First Steps Nutrition Trust

The First Steps Nutrition Trust website has a wide range of nutrition information including resources to support eating well in the early years. Click here to access it.

Introducing solid foods to infants from around 6 months old (weaning)

It is recommended that infants are introduced to solids foods at around 6 months of age because they are developmentally ready at this time. This is a key stage in an infant's development and allows the family to introduce a range of tastes and textures, which will enable an infant to progress onto eating a healthy diet as they grow. Further information can be found here

NHS GGC has developed a range of videos, cooking demos and information to help families on their weaning journey.  These are available to watch by clicking here 

Cooking demonstrations of cooking first weaning foods are available to watch by clicking here 

UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative

Glasgow City HSCP and Maternity Hospitals are signed up to this accreditation programme enabling support for families with feeding and building close and loving relationships with their baby. Click here   for more information. 

UNICEF Infant Feeding Research

You can access an overview of recent studies relevant to infant feeding and parent-infant relationship building here.




Community Food and Health Scotland

Community Food and Health (Scotland) or CFHS aims to ensure that everyone in Scotland has the opportunity, ability and confidence to access a healthy and acceptable diet for themselves, their families and their communities. Find out more via the CFHS website by clicking here

Eatwell Guide

The Eatwell Guide helps us eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates plus some dairy, meat, fish, pulses and other kinds of protein. It replaced Eatwell plate as the main tool showing you a healthy balanced diet. It no longer represents a ‘plate’ but still shows the proportions of the foods and drinks that make up a healthy diet. The proportions of food groups been updated to take into account the new dietary recommendations for more fibre and less sugar. Click here  to access it.

Feeding in the first year of life: SACN report

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report on feeding in the first year of life covers infant feeding from birth up to 12 months of age. You can access the report here

Feeding young children aged 1 to 5 years: SACN report

This report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) covers feeding young children aged 1 to 5 years. You can access the report here

Food a fact of life

'Food a fact of life' is a comprehensive, progressive education programme which communicates up-to-date, evidence-based, consistent and accurate messages around ‘food’ to all those involved in education. Click here  to access it

Food Standards Scotland

The Food Standards Scotland website has tips on healthy eating, meal plans and interactive educational games for children and young people. Click here  to access it.

NHS Inform - Food and Nutrition

Eating a healthy balanced diet can help to prevent diet-related illness and will give you all of the energy and nutrients you need keep active and maintain a healthy weight. Find out how much of the different food groups you should eat and how they can benefit your health on the NHS Inform website here 

Vitamin D

In NHS GG&C free vitamin D is provided to:  

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women 
  • Breastfed babies from birth – 1 year of age  
  • Formula-fed babies once they take less than 500ml (about 1 pint) of infant formula a day. This is because infant formula contains added vitamin D. 
  • All children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D. 

Please see here for more information.

Further advice for all age groups about vitamin D can be found by clicking here 


Physical activity


The Actify platform is a free digital tool that enables sport and physical activity organisations to create and host digital content, learn from one another, and support their audiences. View the website by clicking here

Glasgow Life Activity Directory

Directory of Glasgow Life activity and sport sessions and organisations operating across Glasgow. Click here to access the directory.

Movement for Health - We Move Together

Movement for Health is a coalition of Scotland’s leading health charities, national agencies and academic institutions.  We are united in our commitment to support the least active people living with long term health conditions to be more physically active. Find out more and access tools and resources via the website by clicking here


Parkrun Scotland offer a number of weekly 5 km park runs that take place in local parks. These are free of charge and are open to everyone! You can walk, jog, skip, run, volunteer, or spectate. You can participate as a family, take your toddler in a pram for a walk, or take your dog on a leash for a walk too - there is no time limit and no one finishes last! Find out more here

Public Health Scotland - A systems-based approach to physical activity in Scotland

A systems-based approach involves applying systems thinking, methods and practice to better understand public health challenges and identify collective actions. This report provides a pragmatic systems-based approach to physical activity that can be applied strategically at a national and local level. Access the report by clicking here

The Daily Mile

The Daily Mile is physical activity initiative that promotes Health and Wellbeing for every child. It is active in every Local Authority in Scotland. Find out more here

Physical Activity & Nutrition Strategy/Policy Links

There is a huge amount of national and local work to encourage increased levels of physical activity and healthy balanced diets for children and young people. The Glasgow City HSCP Health Improvement Team have pulled together a list of key strategy and policy links regarding children and young people. These documents should be used to inform planning and delivery within your classroom and school community.

These documents are a useful resource to build a knowledge base around current priorities and work around physical activity and nutrition in Glasgow and across Scotland. Please note that clicking on these documents will take you to external websites.


Health and wellbeing in adolescence and early adulthood 

Healthy Minds DPH Report 2017

Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027


Physical Activity

A Healthier Future: Scotland’s Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan 

A More Active Scotland: Scotland’s Physical Activity Delivery Plan  

Glasgow City Council Traffic and Road Safety Plan to 2020  

Glasgow City Development Plan  

Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2016-2025 

Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Action Plan  

Transport Scotland Active Travel Framework  

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) - UNICEF UK   (refer to article 31)



A healthier future: Scotland's diet and healthy weight delivery plan (2018) 

Better eating better learning (2014) 

Beyond the School Gate (2014) 

Glasgow City Food Plan (2021-2031) 

Good Food Nation Policy (2014)   

Healthy eating in schools: guidance 2020  

Setting the table guidelines pre-5 

Statutory guidance supporting the implementation of the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020

Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 31/03/2023