In addition, students should engage in vigorous
or moderate-intensity physical activity
throughout the school day, such as through recess
and classroom time dedicated to physical activity.
For example, teachers could prepare active lessons
that require students to stand, move around the
room, and integrate movement into learning. Additional opportunities for physical activity should be
provided before and after school. Opportunities to
promote physical activity outside of school itself,
including walking or biking to and from school
and participating in intramural and extramural
sports, should be made accessible to all students.
Importantly, using these guidelines, schools can
choose how and when to provide opportunities
for physical activity and what types of activities to
Policies and programs to support
Schools will need backup to implement these
recommendations. The federal government can
help by including physical education among the
nationally mandated core subjects. States currently
vary greatly in their mandates with respect
to time allocated for and access to physical education.
Nearly half of school administrators report
having cut significant time from physical education
and recess to increase time devoted to reading
and mathematics since passage of the No
Child Left Behind Act in 2001.
The committee finds that physical education
should be designated as a core subject because
it has commensurate values that are foundational
for learning and therefore essential. Physically
active students are likely to be healthy and
mentally sharp—attributes critical to being truly
“present” during the school day.
Government at all levels, from federal to local,
also should take steps to ensure that programs and policies address disparities in physical activity
and that all students at all schools have equal
access to appropriate facilities and opportunities
for physical activity and quality physical education.
In addition, the committee recommends that
education and public health agencies at all levels
develop and systematically deploy data systems
to monitor policies and performance pertaining
to physical activity and physical education in
the school setting. As with measuring progress in
mathematics and language skills, such information
will help in developing strategies for accountability
to strengthen physical activity and physical
education in schools.
Beyond government action, colleges and
universities and continuing education programs
should provide preservice training for those planning
to become teachers, 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.
There also is need for continued research
to fill current gaps in knowledge about physical
activity and physical education in the school environment,
and about the effects of physical activity
on youth health.
Schools historically have been central in supporting
the well-being of youth by providing health
screenings, immunizations, and nutrition programs,
and also by training them for lifelong learning. It follows, then, that schools can and should
play a major role in efforts to make children and
adolescents more active—putting them on a track
toward better health and improved performance in
their classes and beyond.