Prioritizing School Intramural and Interscholastic Programs Based on Observed Physical Activity

A coach plays basketball with a student in a school yard.

Intramural sports have the potential to provide more overall physical activity than interscholastic sports according to these researchers.

 The Issue:

Both the Institute of Medicine and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommend intramurals (IM) among middle-school students in an effort to create more opportunities for more children to reach the recommended levels of daily physical activity, yet many schools prefer the traditional interscholastic (IS) approach.



Key Findings

  • Regardless of the type of sport played, IM sports generated higher levels of physical activity than IS sports among boys but not girls.


When examining the physical activity levels of children, the data in this study show that extracurricular school sports should not be considered equal. The observational method of assessing physical activity and the small amount of schools represented in this sample are among the limitations of this study.

About the Study:

Using the System for Observation Play and Leisure Among Youth in 6,735 middle school children in four schools in Wake County, North Carolina, the amount of students in sedentary, moderate, and vigorous activity was objectively measured.  Energy expenditure and intensity of physical activity (MET values) were also estimated.