individual characteristics. However, a number of studies have documented social disparities in access to physical education and other opportunities for physical activity by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and immigrant generation. Moreover, because not every child has the means or opportunity to participate in before- and after-school activities and intramural/extramural sports, curriculum-based physical education programs often provide the only opportunity for all school-aged children to access health-enhancing physical activity.


As stated at the beginning of this Summary, an extensive scientific literature demonstrates that regular physical activity promotes growth and development in children and adolescents and has multiple benefits for physical, mental, and cognitive health. Looking forward, gaps remain in knowledge about physical activity and physical education in the school environment and key areas in which research would be useful to those who are implementing programs and policies designed to improve children’s health, development, and academic achievement. These research needs are covered in greater detail throughout the report and especially in the final chapter. They include topics such as

• the effects of varying doses, frequency, timing, intermittency, and types of physical activity in the school environment;

• the relationship between motor skills and participation in physical activity;

• baseline estimates of physical activity behaviors in school;

• standardized data on participation in physical education, including the degree of vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity in these classes;

• the extent and impact of sedentary behavior in school;

• the influence of school design elements;

• the impact of school-community physical activity partnerships;

• the impact of physical activity–related policies, laws, and regulations for schools; and

• the effectiveness of various physical activity–enhancing strategies in schools to address the needs of students who typically have not had equal access to opportunities for physical activity.

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