Behavioral and Social Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Enhanced School-Based Physical Education
This review evaluated the effectiveness of enhancing physical education (PE) curricula by making classes longer or having students be more active during class in order to increase the amount of time students spend doing moderate or vigorous activity in PE class.
Summary of Task Force Recommendations & Findings
The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends implementing programs that increase the length of, or activity levels in, school-based physical education classes based on strong evidence of their effectiveness in improving both physical activity levels and physical fitness among school-aged children and adolescents.
Results from the Systematic Review
Fourteen studies qualified for the review.
- In all 14 studies reviewed, students’ physical fitness improved.
- All five studies measuring activity levels during PE class recorded increases in the:
- Number of minutes spent in moderate or vigorous physical activity
- Percentage of class time spent in moderate or vigorous physical activity, and/or
- Intensity level of physical activity during class
- The median estimates from the reviewed studies suggest that modifying school PE curricula as recommended will result in an 8% increase in aerobic fitness among school-aged children.
- Many interventions reviewed included:
- Changing the activities taught (e.g., substituting soccer for softball)
- Modifying the rules of the game so that students are more active (e.g., in softball, have the entire team run the bases together when the batter makes a base hit)
- Health education
- Modified school PE curricula were effective across diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, among boys and girls, elementary- and high-school students, and in urban and rural settings.
- A separate literature review found that having students attend school PE classes was not found to harm academic performance.
These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to physical activity.
- Evidence Gaps
- Summary Evidence Table [PDF - 3.14MB] - see Appendix B on pages 103–106
- Included Studies
Kahn EB, Ramsey LT, Brownson R, et al. The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: a systematic review. [PDF - 3.14MB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22(4S):73-107.
Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. [PDF - 70KB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22 (4S):67-72.
CDC. Increasing physical activity. A report on recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. MMWR 2001;50 (RR-18):1-16.
Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Physical activity. [PDF - 302KB] In : Zaza S, Briss PA, Harris KW, eds. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: What Works to Promote Health? Atlanta (GA): Oxford University Press;2005:80-113.
More Community Guide publications about Promoting Physical Activity
The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC.
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 www.thecommunityguide.org/pa/behavioral-social/schoolbased-pe.html. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.
Review completed: October 2000
- Page last reviewed: April 4, 2011
- Page last updated: December 21, 2011
- This page includes all of the information available and will not be updated.
- Content source: The Guide to Community Preventive Services