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Physical Literacy

What is Physical Literacy?

Physical literacy is the integration of physical, psychological, cognitive and social capabilities that help us live active, healthy and fulfilling lifestyles:

  • Physical – the skills and fitness a person acquires and applies through movement
  • Psychological – the attitudes and emotions a person has towards movement and the impact these have on their confidence and motivation to move
  • Cognitive –  a person’s understanding of how, why and when they move
  • Social – a person’s interaction with others and the environment in relation to movement

Australian Definition of Physical Literacy

In June 2016, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) engaged 14 Australian and International researchers to explore the concept of physical literacy for the Australian context.

The researchers involved in developing the definition included representatives from nine Australian Universities and four international institutions, with expertise in areas including motor skill development, psychological factors (confidence, motivation, attitudes), education, sport participation and physical activity.

This work provides a means for all sectors (including sport, health and education) to work collectively to support Australians to improve their physical literacy. The research team supports the below statements as a coherent, practical and appropriate way of defining physical literacy for Australia.

Physical literacy is lifelong holistic learning acquired and applied in movement and physical activity contexts.

It reflects ongoing changes integrating physical, psychological, cognitive and social capabilities.

It is vital in helping us lead healthy and fulfilling lives through movement and physical activity.

View the Consensus Statement defining Physical Literacy

Download the Physical Literacy: Informing a Definition and Standard for Australia report that informed the development of a physical literacy definition and standard for Australia.

Why is Physical Literacy important?

Australian society has changed and continues to change. Australians are not moving as much as we used to. This is leading to increases in preventable disease and poorer health across the nation.

Increasingly, Australian children are unable to perform basic fundamental movement skills such as running, throwing, kicking, catching or jumping. They lack the confidence, ability and motivation to move and to be physically active. Australians are also living increasingly sedentary lives, spending more time using screens than being physically active.

Motivating Australians to move more is a complex problem. Focusing on developing physical literacy can help to get and keep people moving.

With well-developed physical literacy skills in early life, people will be more likely to have the confidence and capability to participate and be physically active throughout their lives.

Physical literacy enhances a person’s:

  • ability to perform a variety of fundamental movement skills competently and confidently
  • attitude toward physical activity and sport and can increase the motivation to be active
  • understanding of how to adapt to different movement settings and engage effectively with others
  • knowledge and understanding of how and when to apply tactics and strategies in games.

The development of physical literacy is a lifelong process that is ongoing and dynamic. It is not developed to a point of completion but requires continual refinement and re-focusing based on life stage and circumstances, paving the way for a healthy and physically active life.

Benefits of Improved Physical Literacy

The earlier we learn to move competently and confidently, the more likely we are to continue to be physically active for life. Research tells us that early development of motor skills provides a foundation for engagement in diverse forms of physical activity and sports, and has a positive effect on health and wellbeing. People who are more physically literate in their early years are more likely to engage in more frequent and higher levels of physical activity throughout life.

Participating in physical activity more frequently and at higher levels leads to health benefits such as healthier blood sugar levels, reduced risk of obesity and other non-communicable diseases. People with improved physical literacy and physical fitness display a healthier body weight status and greater cardiorespiratory fitness. Effective physical literacy helps to reduce injuries through the development of improved body mechanics and awareness of the physical environment.

Today’s children have the most to gain from developing physical literacy. Physical literacy will contribute to the core components of a child’s holistic development supporting their health and lifelong wellbeing. Educating children from a young age builds their skills, self-confidence and motivation which means they are more likely to be physically active throughout their lives.

What does Physical Literacy mean for me?

For Schools and Teachers
Physical literacy is the whole-child learning that occurs through movement and physical activity experiences provided to students. It requires the integration of physical, psychological, cognitive and social development.
For Parents
Physical literacy is what your children learn through movement and physical activity; about themselves, other people and the world around them. It involves developing physical skills, thinking skills, life-skills, attitudes and values. Encouraging your children to move more will help them to lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives.
For National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) and coaches
Physical literacy reflects all learning that occurs when participants engage in sport or recreational physical activities. It includes physical skills, problem-solving, life-skills, attitudes and values. It continues throughout life, so what people learn (positive and negative) from any experience of sport/activity remains with them in some way
For policymakers in health, education, spot and recreation
Physical literacy is what people learn through movement; about themselves, other people and the world around them. It represents the combined development of physical, emotional, cognitive and social capabilities. Encouraging people to move more throughout life will help them to lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives. Policy makers are able to champion policies that promote movement in order to create healthier communities.
For children and adolescents
When I move, I learn – about myself, about other people and about the world around me. When I am active or playing sports and games, I learn how my body moves, what I like, and how to work with other people. Movement is an important opportunity for me to learn important life lessons, as well as enjoy myself, and stay healthy. If I enjoy movement now, and stay involved, it will help me be healthy when I am older.
For researchers
Physical literacy reflects: a network of learning processes and capacities – developed in movement and physical activity - that are continually evolving throughout life and a developing response to interactions with the environment. It reflects the holistic integrations of physical, pschological, cognitive and social development.
For further information click here to download Physical Literacy - What does it mean for me?

The Draft Australian Physical Literacy Standard

The Draft Australian Physical Literacy Standard (the Standard) builds on the development of the Australian Physical Literacy Definition to provide a framework that all Australians can use to support lifelong participation in movement and physical activity.

It can be used by anyone, at any life stage, and at all levels, to develop physical literacy.

The Standard is designed to build a consistent understanding of physical literacy and how it can be developed, meaning it can be used by everyone including children, parents, coaches and educators.

Find out more about the draft Standard

ASC CEO Kate Palmer discusses the importance of Physical Literacy for Australia

Sport, education and research stakeholders share their thoughts on Physical Literacy

Have your say

To subscribe to future updates and provide feedback on the Draft Physical Literacy Standard, register now



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Did you know?

Gold Coast 2018 is the 5th Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Australia.

Quick numbers

11.6 million Australian adults participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week.
3.2 million Australian children participate in organised sport or physical activity outside of school.
$10 billion is spent annually by Australians on fees for participation in sport or physical activity.
17 million Australian adults participate in a sport or physical activity every year.
650 thousand Australians either coach, teach or instruct sport.