Educating the Student Body

Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School

This report makes recommendations about approaches for strengthening and improving programs and policies for physical activity and physical education in the school environment.

Prepared by the Institute of Medicine on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School presents the study committee’s findings and recommendations based on the following guiding principles: the benefits of instilling lifelong physical activity habits in children; the value of using systems thinking; the recognition of current disparities in opportunities and the need to achieve equity in physical activity and physical education; the importance of considering all types of school environments; the need to consider the diversity of students as recommendations are developed; the importance of practicality of implementation and accounting for the challenges and barriers that stakeholders face; and the need to base recommendations on the best available scientific evidence and promising approaches.

Recommendations:

  1. District and school administrators, teachers, and parents should advocate for and create a whole-of-school approach to physical activity that fosters and provides access in the school environment to at least 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity more than half (> 50%) of which should be accomplished during regular school hours.
  2. Federal and state governments, school systems at all levels (state, district, and local), city governments and city planners, and parent-teacher organizations should systematically consider access to and provision of physical activity in all policy decisions related to the school environment as a contributing factor to improving academic performance, health, and development for all children.
  3. Because physical education is foundational for lifelong health and learning, the Department of Education (DOE) should designate physical education as a core subject.
  4. Education and public health agencies at all government levels (federal, state, and local) should develop and systematically deploy data systems to monitor policies and behaviors pertaining to physical activity and physical education in the school setting, so as to provide a foundation for policy and program planning, development, implementation, and assessment.
  5. Colleges and universities and continuing education programs should provide preservice training and ongoing professional development opportunities for K-12 classroom and physical education teachers to enable them to embrace and promote physical activity across the curriculum.

This report will be of interest to local and national policy-makers, school officials, teachers, and the education community, researchers, professional organizations, and parents interested in physical activity, physical education, and health for school-aged children and adolescents.