Path of growth and physical activity in Espoo

  • Physical training
  • Well-being
  • Sports
  • Teaching and instruction
  • Early childhood education and care
14.2.2022 13.13Updated: 14.2.2022 13.44


  1. Introduction
  2. Exercise circle age 0–20
  3. National studies
  4. Early childhood education
  5. Comprehensive education
  6. Upper secondary and vocational education and training
  7. Sports and exercise services
  8. Summary

1. Introduction

In Espoo, we are pioneers. We carry out systematic work to promote the physical activity of children and young people. The Model for Leisure Activities in Espoo and especially the Wednesday hobby afternoon already implement the principles of the Finnish Model for Leisure Activities.

According to the Espoo Moves 2030 vision, every child has the right to participate in leisure activities. Children and young people should have the opportunity to exercise and engage in leisure activities of their own liking.

We are creating a hobby path for children and young people in Espoo, which will promote children’s equal opportunities to participate and the right to a safe childhood and youth. We support children and young people in a communal, healthy and active lifestyle. Another aim is to prevent social exclusion.

We want to further increase leisure activities at schools in the afternoon in cooperation with various actors. Sports clubs and companies in the field are important partners. It is essential to develop of intersectoral cooperation to promote the wellbeing of children and young people.

The main aim of the Finnish Model for Leisure Activities is to increase the wellbeing of children and young people. The objective is to enable every child and young person to have a pleasant and free-of-charge leisure activity in connection with their school day. The Finnish model combines the consultation of children and young people about their wishes for leisure activities, the coordination of existing good practices and operating methods, and cooperation between schools and activity service providers. In Espoo, the Finnish Model for Leisure Activities was piloted in spring 2021, and the operations will continue as the Espoo Hobby Path project.

2. Exercise circle age 0–20

3. National studies

Move! measurements

Move! measurement data is used in comprehensive schools in physical education and in extensive health check-ups in school health care. The results are also used in central government, regions and municipalities in the development and monitoring of measures to promote health and wellbeing. 

In addition to consulting children and young people, it is important to use nationally significant test and research results when planning leisure activities. On the basis of this information, we can develop the supply of leisure activities so that they support the measures of comprehensive schools.  The use of measurement data is aimed to increase activity and movement in schools.

The national Move! measurements of physical functional capacity are carried out for 5th and 8th graders as part of physical education in comprehensive school. The measurements consist of six sections that measure endurance, speed, strength, mobility and basic motor skills as well as perceptual motor skills. The autumn 2020 measurement results for the whole country showed that endurance has deteriorated. A large number of pupils are at a level of endurance that is potentially detrimental to their health and functional capacity, so that they may have difficulty managing everyday activities without tiring. Other areas of the measurement remained more or less unchanged. The sedentary lifestyle and the effects of unvaried exercise have been reflected in the mobility of pupils’ bodies for years. For other physical strength and motor skills, there were no significant changes in the results.

In Espoo, endurance follows the same trend as national results, but more pupils perform at a level that promotes health and wellbeing. The same applies to upper body lifts, five continuous jumps and press-ups. The results of the throw-catch combination show that girls have lower scores than the national level. The results of the mobility tests are clearly worse for boys than for girls.

In order to develop the Move! measurements, more discussion is needed, which should be conducted together with school health care, comprehensive education, pupil welfare and Sports and Exercise Services. In this way, we could increase opportunities and tools for encouraging physical activity, such as individual physical activity guidance in schools and providing opportunities for physical activities for all children and young people. Developing applied Move! measurements and expanding understanding are of primary importance.
See the Move! measurement results(external link) (in Finnish).

School Health Promotion study

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) conducts the School Health Promotion study every two years. The School Health Promotion study produces diverse and reliable regional and local monitoring information on the wellbeing, health, school attendance, studies and participation of children and young people of different ages, and on whether they receive help and how services meet their needs. The information obtained from the School Health Promotion study is used in the planning, implementation and evaluation of the work on the wellbeing of children and young people both at the school level and at the city level. The results are openly available in the results service(external link) (in Finnish).

In 2019, the study’s questionnaire was answered in Espoo by 5,494 pupils in 4th and 5th grade (coverage 77%), 4,183 pupils in 8th and 9th grade (67%), 2,403 students in 1st and 2nd year of upper secondary school and 748 students in vocational education and training.

According to the results of the 2019 School Health Promotion study, most children and young people in Espoo are satisfied with their lives and feel that they are in good health. However, the percentage of young people who experience poor health has increased. As far as sports and exercise is concerned, children and young people are more and more clearly divided into those who exercise a lot and those who exercise very little.

Almost all children and young people in Espoo have a hobby. Less than one-fifth of upper comprehensive school pupils and upper secondary school students and less than one-third of vocational school students find interesting hobbies too expensive. The share of young people who feel that interesting hobbies are too expensive has decreased slightly from 2017.

The majority of young people are aware of the leisure opportunities in their residential area, and one in three feel that interesting leisure activities for young people are organised in their area. However, about one in three young people feel that their residential area does not have enough places for them to spend time in.

Hobbies for children and young people focus on sports. Some 74% of upper comprehensive school pupils, 78% of upper secondary school students and 65% of vocational school students engage in physical activity independently in their free time at least weekly. There are differences between levels of education in the practice of guided sports and exercise. Approximately 60% of upper comprehensive school pupils, 47% of upper secondary school pupils and 30% of vocational school students do guided sports and exercise during their leisure time at least weekly. Both independent and guided exercise is slightly more common in Espoo than in the whole of Finland.

Around one in three upper comprehensive school pupils and upper secondary school students and one in four vocational school students engage in art or culture independently in their free time at least weekly. Arts and cultural activities are more common among young people in Espoo than the national average at all levels of education. Some one in five upper comprehensive school pupils and one in six upper secondary school students and vocational students participate in the activities of an association or organisation. Girls and boys from Espoo participate in the activities of an association or organisation almost as often and at the level of the national average at all levels of education.

Some of the hobbies of young people are clearly more common among either girls or boys. Boys play on a mobile device or computer and code or programme, publish media content and make more videos and animations than girls do. Girls, on the other hand, read, write, take care of their pets, and do more acting, music or visual arts than boys do. In terms of physical activity, differences among young people are more apparent between educational levels than between the sexes, although boys do exercise more. Going to the cinema, theatre or exhibitions is equally common among girls and boys, but more common among upper comprehensive school pupils and upper secondary school students than among vocational school students.

LIITU study

The Physical Activity Behaviours of Children and Adolescents in Finland (LIITU(external link)) is a collaborative study led by the University of Jyväskylä’s Research Centre for Health Promotion.

The aim of the LIITU study is to create an information system on the physical activity behaviour of children and young people aged 7–19 in Finland. The study collects information on the physical activity behaviour and attitudes, values and experiences of children and young people in Finland by means of an electronic survey and an objective activity monitor.

4. Early childhood education


The Espoo Early Childhood Education Plan requires that the Recommendations for physical activity in early childhood (Ministry of Education and Culture 2016:21) are followed in each unit and that physical education is carried out in accordance with the Finnish National Agency for Education’s Joy in Motion programme.

According to the Recommendations for physical activity, a child under school age should get three hours of physical activity a day. Two of these hours should take place during the child’s early childhood education. A physically active lifestyle can be achieved by increasing physical activity in the context of routines. Joint sessions include physical activity and teaching is active. Learning environments are designed to encourage physical activity.

Physical education must be regular, diverse and child- and goal-oriented. The purpose of early childhood education is to develop children’s body awareness and control, basic motor skills, balance, orientation and mobility as well as equipment handling skills. Guided exercise sessions offer children the opportunity to learn new skills. In the implementation, effort is made to eliminate the need for excessive waiting or standing in line.

Children are encouraged to spend time outdoors and play active games in all seasons. In Espoo, nature excursions are part of the everyday life of class groups, and nature pedagogy will continue to be invested in, for example, by having more nature groups.

In cooperation with parents, children are also encouraged to be physically active in different spaces and outdoors in various conditions. Units organise sporting events in which families participate. Cycling weeks were launched in autumn 2020 to encourage early childhood education staff and families to encourage children’s cycling. Cooperation is carried out and developed with various sports clubs, sports companies and the city’s Sports and Exercise Services. Early childhood education staff are trained systematically to promote children’s physical activity.

Swedish-language Education Services require that each early childhood education unit include in the school year plan a description of how they plan to work to promote children’s daily physical activity. In addition, workshops are organised to offer early childhood education staff the opportunity to share good practices with each other.


We will achieve the objectives with the following measures.

  • Fun leap is a part of early childhood education that is carried out in cooperation with sports clubs and sports companies and is intended for children too young for pre-primary education who are in early childhood education in Espoo.
  • Generations together: Shared physical activities for seniors and children. In cooperation with the city’s Sports and Exercise Services and Finnish Early Education.
  • Language on the move: Guidance material for daily physical activity and guided exercise to support the language learning of children from immigrant backgrounds. In cooperation with language and culture teachers.
  • Group sports tips for sedentary families in cooperation with Sports and Exercise Services.
  • Fun leap: Espoo’s own board game that encourages physical activity. Children plan their own exercise sessions, develop games and new ways of physical activity. 
  • The purpose of the Cycling Week is to inspire and encourage early childhood education staff to work together with families on cycling education. The start encourages people to continue cycling in everyday life both in early childhood education units and in family leisure time.

5. Comprehensive education


The aim is to allow everyone pleasant experiences through physical activity. Activities are planned within the school day, such as active breaks between lessons and moments of physical activity in class and in the mornings.

Closer cooperation with sports clubs and organisations will be carried out within school activities in order to implement active moments more extensively.

Svenska bildningstjänster (Swedish education services) organises tournaments and events throughout the academic year in various sports. The most important competitions are the Stafettkarnevalen relay races held throughout Finland and the athletics competition held in Kauniainen. Tournaments between schools have also traditionally been held in various ball sports, among which football and handball have been popular.

The activity objectives are implemented through the above mentioned activities and through various state-subsidised projects, such as Finnish Schools on the Move and Students on the Move. The objective of the former is to enable each child to be physically active for at least one hour per day, for example by means of break activities and walking or cycling to school, as well as by organising physical activities during or after the school day. Our schools no longer receive state grants for these projects, but the good practices have nevertheless remained a permanent part of school life.


We will achieve the objectives with the following measures.

  • School club activities: Each year, schools apply for state grants for organising club activities. 

  • Physical education according to the curriculum in comprehensive education and secondary education.  Many upper comprehensive schools also offer physical education as an optional subject or as an additional skill element in additional lessons (school-specific curriculum). Physical education as an optional subject may be possible in the last years of primary school (school-specific curriculum). 

  • In upper secondary education, there is a state-subsidised project Students on the Move, which aims to increase physical activity in upper secondary school days. A similar, completed project for comprehensive schools brought sports elements to the school’s everyday activities, such as active breaks, clubs run by pupils and exercise sessions during lessons.

6. Upper secondary and vocational education and training

Goals of physical education according to upper secondary school curriculum

The purpose of physical education is to support the student’s wellbeing, development and learning. Physical education teaches students skills and knowledge that enable them to assess, maintain and develop their physical, social and mental ability to function. The aim of the instruction is to guide the student to take responsibility for their own physical activeness, as well as their ability to function and study. The instruction emphasises the importance of physical activity that promotes holistic wellbeing as part of an active lifestyle. Students build a positive body image and self-image through physical activity.

In physical activity, students experience joy, success and physical competence, and learn ways to maintain and develop their own ability to cope. Upper secondary school sports promote equality and non-discrimination for all students.

The purpose and objectives of physical activity are implemented by teaching in a versatile and safe manner, taking into account the possibilities offered by different study environments and seasons. Different ways of working and methods are used in teaching, students are involved in the planning and evaluation of activities, and they are guided to take responsibility for their own and the group’s activities and safety.

There are 11 upper secondary schools in Espoo, of which Haukilahti and Leppävaara upper secondary schools have a sports programme.

Omnia, the Joint Authority of Education in Espoo Region

Omnia is a member of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Sports Academy (URHEA), which makes it possible to flexibly combine top-level sports with vocational or upper secondary school studies. Coaching is carried out as sport-specific coaching and general coaching at the educational institution and in cooperation with the sports groups of URHEA.

The SportOmnia Sports Educational Institution is intended for students who have set high goals for success in sports and studies. It is possible to combine a sports career with vocational studies and upper secondary school studies at the Espoo Upper Secondary School for Adults. Sports coaching can be included as part of a qualification. Students can receive study credits for sports coaching and participation in competitions in their own sport for all the vocational upper secondary qualifications offered in Omnia.

7. Sports and Exercise Services


We promote children’s equal right to participate and the right to a safe childhood and youth. We prevent leisure inequalities and social exclusion. We intensify and increase cooperation with sports clubs to enable children and young people to engage in leisure activities. The Hobby Path enables the development of children’s motor and social skills in different age groups. Sports club activities commit to the principles of sustainable education. Children and young people are given equal consideration. Our goal is to use digitalisation more actively in encouraging physical activity. We will increase the conditions of physical activity and the use of school sports facilities in afternoons and during holidays.

  • We will increase the number of participants in upper comprehensive schools on Wednesday afternoons to approximately 1,000 young people per week and increase the sports selection by region as well as multi-sport activity locations. We will increase the number of applied exercise groups.
  • We will increase the activities of primary schools’ 5th and 6th grade pupils in cooperation with sports clubs to the entire Espoo region to about 12–14 schools.
  • We will start leisure activities for 1st–4th grade pupils in cooperation with sports clubs in the entire Espoo region. According to the Espoo model, the activity takes place immediately after the school day in 10–12 primary schools.

It is important that every child and young person finds their own pleasant way to be physically active and engage in leisure activities. In addition to the low-threshold sports groups and introductions to various sports, we offer free personal sports and exercise counselling. The aim is to encourage Espoo residents of different ages to be physically active. The child or young person can be referred to exercise counselling either through health services, or their parent/guardian can call and make an appointment.  Visits by a sports instructor at schools are also a good way to reach schoolchildren, provide exercise counselling and create new cooperation models with school staff.

We take care of equality and accessibility aspects to make services more accessible to everyone. 


We will achieve the objectives with the following measures.

  • Kuperkeikka activities: Activities for children aged 2–6, where children in day-care centres practise motor skills under the guidance of professionals once a week.
  • Töpinät activities: Physical activity for families and children aged 2–8. In the activities, children and parents are physically active together. 1st–4th grades: In primary schools, diverse physical activity for 7–10-year-olds takes place one afternoon a week. The activities are open to everyone.
  • WAU clubs: Free sports clubs at all skill levels aimed at primary school children aged 7–12. The club activities are available in dozens of locations ranging from schools to swimming halls and other sports venues. 5th and 6th grades: In primary schools, diverse physical activity for 11–12-year-olds takes place one afternoon a week. The activities are open to everyone. 
  • Wednesday hobby afternoons: Free hobby offerings for Espoo upper comprehensive school pupils aged 13–16. Dozens of clubs and groups are available on Wednesday afternoons, when school ends by 14:30.  Applied exercise is also included.
  • Jumppi groups: Free sports hobby groups aimed at 13–18-year-olds, who can participate whenever it suits them. Guided sports and exercise groups: We organise diverse applied exercise for children and young people. We also carry out applied sports in cooperation with sports clubs.
  • KULPS: The culture and sports path is Espoo’s culture and physical education plan, which offers free cultural and sports visits for pupils in pre-primary education and in comprehensive education as part of education in accordance with the curriculum. KULPS comprises three paths: the culture path, library path and sports path. The goal is for each pupil to are able to visit each path at least once a school year.  The sports path introduces pupils to new sports and sports venues.
  • URHEA: At the moment, six schools in Espoo are part of the URHEA network for upper comprehensive schools.  All the schools make use of the Grow into an Athlete (Kasva urheilijaksi) study materials and enable training during the school day in cooperation with sports clubs. In addition, two upper secondary schools and Omnia’s sports programme are involved in URHEA.
  • Holiday exercise: During school holidays, a wide variety of sports activities are organised for schoolchildren. The operations are the responsibility of our partners in Espoo.  The offering ranges from introductions to different sports lasting a few hours to week-long multi-sport camps. The multi-sport camps introduce primary school pupils with six different sports.
  • Events: Sports and Exercise Services organise events together with different actors, for example, the Espoo Moves Day for children and young people.  The events have activity stations where people can try out different sports and activities. The goal of these ‘activity tastings’ is for every child and young person to find a sports hobby they like. The European Week of Sport (EWoS) of the European Commission is held every year 23–30 September. In Finland, the week’s main event School Action Day – Let’s #BeActive is one of the biggest sports and exercise events for schoolchildren in Europe. The event encourages students from the 3rd–9th grades in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa to exercise, and the partners include many sports federations and clubs, as well as the sports departments in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

8. Summary

Through the Path of Growth and Physical Activity, we want to keep all children and young people active and find new ways to maintain and improve their mental and physical condition. The heart of the Espoo Story is the residents and their smooth everyday life. Children and young people are high in the city’s values, and we want to further develop measures to promote their wellbeing. In matters related to children and young people, we carry out good multi-professional cooperation, of which the Path of Growth and Physical Activity is a great example.