Estimated Energy Expenditures for School-Based Policies and Active Living

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, issued by the federal government in 2008, recommend that children and adolescents be active for at least 60 minutes per day. But in 2003-2004 only 42 percent of children ages 6 to 11 met that standard and fewer than 8 percent of adolescents did.

This study estimated the number of minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity various policy changes could support among youths. To conduct the assessment, researchers analyzed 85 past studies that used objective measurements of physical activity, such as accelerometers, pedometers, heart rate monitors, and direct observation. They then converted the measurements of energy expenditure from those studies into a standard estimate of minutes of physical activity.

Key Findings:

  • Daily physical education in school could support 23 minutes of physical activity per day.
  • Classroom physical activity breaks could support 19 minutes.
  • Increasing walking or biking to school could support 16 minutes.
  • Renovating parks to include more equipment and opportunities for physical activity could support 12 minutes.

The study includes time estimates for nine different types of policy changes, in both schools and communities. These researchers conclude their findings could help policy-makers make well-informed decisions regarding the best way to support physical activity among children and adolescents.