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Active Schools

Schools are a key setting for kids to get their 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity, given the significant portion of time they spend there. Schools can undertake a combination of strategies and approaches to help children be more physically active, including:

  • Creating infrastructure and policies within schools that increase access to and encourage physical activity for all students;
  • Maintaining strong physical education (PE) programs that engage students in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 50% of PE class time;
  • Providing a variety of activities and specific skills so that students can be physically active not just during PE class but throughout the day and year; and
  • Providing qualified school professionals who are trained in teaching methods to engage students in PE, including for students who face greater barriers to activity.

Students can get most of their physical activity through a quality PE program that is complemented by activities before, during, and afterschool, as well as in recess, other physical activity breaks, intramural and physical activity clubs, interscholastic sports, and walks and bike rides to school.

Some school leaders have expressed concerns that a comprehensive physical education program is too expensive, particularly during difficult economic times and tight budgets. However, there are many low-cost or no-cost steps that school leaders can take to improve the physical activity environment for all students and to promote student health without compromising academic pursuits.

Through the Let’s Move! initiative several steps can be taken to encourage more physical activity in schools including:

  • Expanding and Modernizing the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge. This year, President Obama broadened the scope of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to include a focus on healthy eating and active lifestyles. The Council's mission is to engage, educate and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition. The council is led by co-chairs Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and Dominique Dawes, three-time Olympian and former U.S. national champion in women's gymnastics. 
  • The Council also promotes the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) programs which encourage all Americans to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives: - 30 minutes per day for adults, and 60 minutes per day for youth. 
  • HealthierUS School Challenge. The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) establishes rigorous standards for schools’ food quality, participation in meal programs, physical activity opportunities, and nutrition education. This nationwide award program recognizes schools that createhealthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. Schools that are doing the very best work to keep kids healthy will be recognized, and high-achieving schools will even receive monetary incentives. Visit the HealthierUS School Challenge website to sign up.
  • Safe and Healthy Schools Fund. The U.S. Department of Education is working with Congress to create a Safe and Healthy Schools fund as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act. This fund will support schools with comprehensive strategies to improve their school environment, including efforts to get children physically active in and outside of school, and improve the quality and availability of physical education.