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Campaigns and Informational Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Classroom-Based Health Education Focused on Providing Information

These programs consist of health education classes in elementary, middle, or high schools that aim to help students develop skills needed to adopt healthier behaviors. Class content:

  • Is usually nonspecific (i.e., teachers educate students about physical inactivity, nutrition, smoking, and alcohol and drug misuse)
  • May include behavioral skills components (e.g., role-playing, goal-setting, contingency planning)
  • Usually does not include spending additional time participating in physical activity

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force finds insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of classroom-based health education focused on providing information in increasing physical activity levels and physical fitness because of inconsistent findings.

Task Force Finding

Results from the Systematic Review

Ten studies qualified for the review.

  • The studies reviewed showed variable effects of these interventions on time spent in physical activity outside the school setting.
    • Three study arms from two studies showed increases in activity.
    • Five study arms from two studies showed decreases in self-reported activity.
    • Five study arms from one study found positive changes in self-reported behavior.
    • Eleven study arms from two studies found no change or negative changes in self-reported behavior.
    • Aerobic capacity was not measured in any of these studies.
  • Although findings did not show changes in activity, four of five study arms from three studies showed increases in:
    • General health knowledge
    • Exercise-related knowledge
    • Self-efficacy about exercise
  • Effects on body fat measures were mixed, showing decreases in BMI (body mass index) among both boys and girls, but decreases in skinfold measurement among boys only.

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 increasing physical activity.

image of planet Find a Research-tested Intervention Program (RTIP) External Web Site Icon about the use of classroom-based health education focused on providing information to increase physical activity (What is an RTIP?).

Economic Evidence

An economic review of this intervention was not conducted because the Task Force did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Supporting Materials


Kahn EB, Ramsey LT, Brownson R, et al. The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: a systematic review. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 3.14 MB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22(4S):73-107.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 70 kB] 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. External Web Site Icon

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Physical activity. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 302 kB] 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.

Read other Community Guide publications about Increasing Physical Activity in our library.


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. Campaigns and informational approaches to increase physical activity: classroom-based health education focused on providing information. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: October 2000