Physical Literacy and Youth

Physical and Health Education Canada (PHE) describes a physically literate child this way: “Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.”

Research has shown that being physically active later in life depends on an individual’s ability to feel confident in an activity setting. That confidence most often comes from having learned fundamental movement and sport skills, or physical literacy, as a child. Physical literacy is an indispensible means for active participation in the societies and the development and maintenance of good health.


Physical literacy is an extremely important aspect in youth development because it provides the fundamental movement skills needed to enjoy the wide range of physical activities that are available to us. Basic motor skills are the building blocks for more specialized movement skills and patterns that an athlete will need to reach greater levels of achievement.


Recent studies show that youth who have high physical literacy levels have an increased confidence in their abilities, a greater likelihood of participating in sport, and have a higher tendency to remain active as they age.

Fundamental movement and sports skills – also called “physical literacy” – help a child learn to move with confidence and control. There are many benefits to learning movement skills. It enhances brain function in the early years. It improves motor skills, balance, strength, posture, coordination, and sleep patterns. It enhances confidence, social skills, and self esteem.

Think of how important learning the alphabet and phonics are to eventually reading novels. In the same way, developing fundamental movement skills helps children to be successful in sports later on.


Youth Badminton


In addition, the growing body of research from Canada and around the world shows that children who engage in regular physical activity have improved academic performance.

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that children and youth accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per day. Yet research shows that only 9% of the boys and 4% of girls achieve that goal.

Benefits of Physical Literacy

  • Enhances academic performance. Basic classroom skills including arithmetic, readhing, memorization and categorization improve with sufficient physical activity.
  • Is beneficial psycologically, improving self estime regardless of the childs weight
  • Improves skeletal health, which in turn reduces their risk of developing osteoporosis in future. Daily weight bearing, of even brief duration during adolescence is critical for enhancing bone development that affects skeletal health throughout life.
  • Has a positive impact on behavior and healthy lifestyles. Among young people, high levels of fitness are associated with a decline in smoking and drinking behavior and healthyier eating habits.
  • Results in having less body fat.