Physical Literacy

Physical literacy isn’t just about sports.

Physical Literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life. The definition of physical literacy includes four essential and interconnected elements whose relative importance may change throughout life.

MOTIVATION AND CONFIDENCE (AFFECTIVE): Motivation and confidence refers to an individual’s enthusiasm for, enjoyment of, and self-assurance in adopting physical activity as an integral part of life.

PHYSICAL COMPETENCE (PHYSICAL): Physical competence refers to an individual’s ability to develop movement skills and patterns, and the capacity to experience a variety of movement intensities and durations. Enhanced physical competence enables an individual to participate in a wide range of physical activities and settings.

KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING (COGNITIVE): Knowledge and understanding includes the ability to identify and express the essential qualities that influence movement, understand the health benefits of an active lifestyle, and appreciate appropriate safety features associated with physical activity in a variety of settings and physical environments.

ENGAGING IN PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES FOR LIFE (BEHAVIOURAL): Engagement in physical activities for life refers to an individual taking personal responsibility for physical literacy by freely choosing to be active on a regular basis. This involves prioritizing and sustaining involvement in a range of meaningful and personally challenging activities, as an integral part of one’s lifestyle.

The Importance of Physical Literacy

Physical literacy is just as important as the ability to read and write. Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments, benefiting the healthy development of the whole person.

The most important step toward developing physical literacy is mastering fundamental movement skills, which is why we created our Assess Me / Show Me / Teach Me / Activate Me FMS tools . However, there’s more to physical literacy than movement competence.

  • Physically literate individuals consistently develop the motivation and ability to understand, communicate, apply, and analyze different forms of movement.
  • They are able to demonstrate a variety of movements confidently, competently, creatively and strategically across a wide range of health-related physical activities.
  • These skills enable individuals to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of their whole self, others, and their environment.

Language on this page has been borrowed from, in the interest of being consistent with, our partners at Canadian Sport for Life (see also CS4L’s physical literacy microsite at and Active for LIfe.

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