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Behavioral and Social Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Enhanced School-Based Physical Education

Task Force Finding

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends enhanced school-based physical education (PE) to increase physical activity based on strong evidence of effectiveness in increasing the amount of time students spend in moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) during PE classes.

Read the full Task Force Finding and Rationale Statement for details including implementation issues, possible added benefits, potential harms, and evidence gaps.

Intervention Definition

Enhanced school-based physical education (PE) involves curricular and practice-based changes that increase the amount of time that K-12 students engage in moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity during PE classes. Strategies include the following:

  • Instructional strategies and lessons that increase physical activity (e.g., modifying rules of games, substituting less active games with more active games)
  • Physical education lesson plans that incorporate fitness and circuit training activities

Program changes may include developing and implementing a well-designed PE curriculum and employing or providing teachers with appropriate training. Programs may be combined with other school- and community-based interventions such as student health education about physical activity, activities that foster family involvement, and community partnerships to increase opportunities for physical activity.

About the Systematic Review

This Task Force finding is based on evidence from a systematic review published in 2013 (Lonsdale et al., 14 studies, search period through March 2012). An updated search for evidence (search period January 2012-December 2012) did not identify any additional studies. This finding updates and replaces the 2000 Task Force recommendation on Enhanced School-Based Physical Education.

This review was conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice and policy related to increasing physical activity. Subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified as new materials on this topic become available.

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Supporting Materials

Publication Status

Full peer-reviewed articles of this systematic review will be posted on the Community Guide website when published. Subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified when we post these publications or other materials. See our library for previous Community Guide publications on this and other topics.


Lonsdale C, Rosenkranz RR, Peralta LR, Bennie A, Fahey P, Lubans DR. A systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions designed to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in school physical education lessons. Prev Med 2013; 56(2):152-61.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Behavioral and social approaches to increase physical activity: enhanced school-based physical education (abbreviated) Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: December 2013