Because the vast majority of youth are in school for many hours, because schools have important infrastructure for physical activity and are critical to the education and health of children and adolescents, and because physical activity promotes health and learning, it follows that physical activity should be a priority for all schools, particularly if there is an opportunity to improve academic achievement. As discussed in Chapter 1, schools have for years been the center for other key health-related programming, including screenings, immunizations, and nutrition and substance abuse programs. Unfortunately, school-related physical activity has been fragmented and varies greatly across the United States, within states, within districts, and even within schools. Physical education typically has been relied on to provide physical activity as well as curricular instruction for youth; however, even the best-quality physical education curriculum will not allow children to meet the guideline of at least 60 minutes per day of vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity. Interscholastic and intramural sports are another traditional opportunity for physical activity, but they are unavailable to a sizable proportion of youth. Schools are being underutilized in the ways in which they provide opportunities for physical activity for children and adolescents. A whole-of-school approach that makes the school a resource to enable each child to attain the recommended 60 minutes or more per day of vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity can change this situation.

The committee therefore recommends a whole-of-school approach to increasing physical activity for children and adolescents. Under such an approach, all of a school’s components and resources operate in a coordinated and dynamic manner to provide access, encouragement, and programs that enable all students to engage in vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity 60 minutes or more each day. A whole-of-school approach encompasses all segments of the school day, including travel to and from school, school-sponsored before- and after-school activities, recess and lunchtime breaks, physical education, and classroom instructional time. Beyond the resources devoted to quality daily physical education for all students, other school resources, such as classroom teachers, staff, administrators, and aspects of the physical environment, are oriented toward physical activity. Intramural and extramural sports programs are available to all who wish to participate, active transport is used by substantial numbers of children to move from home to school and back again, recess and other types of breaks offer additional opportunities for physical activity, and lesson plans integrate physical activity as an experiential approach to instruction.

A whole-of-school approach encompasses all people involved in the day-to-day functioning of the school, including students, faculty, staff,

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement