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Physical Activity: Classroom-Based Health Education Focused on Providing Information


What the Task Force Found

About The Systematic Review

The Task Force finding is based on evidence from a systematic review of 10 studies (search period 1980 - 2000).

The systematic 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.


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Summary of Results

Information about data variability is available in the published evidence review External Web Site Icon.

Ten studies were included in the systematic review.

  • Interventions reported different effects 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.
  • Although findings did not show changes in activity, four of five study arms from three studies showed increases in the following:
    • 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.

Summary of 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.


Applicability of this intervention across different settings and populations was not assessed because the Task Force did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Evidence Gaps

Additional research and evaluation are needed to answer the following questions and fill existing gaps in the evidence base. (What are evidence gaps?)

  • How do interventions affect various population subgroups, such as age, gender, race, or ethnicity?
  • Do informational approaches to increasing physical activity help to increase health knowledge? Is it necessary to increase knowledge or improve attitudes toward physical activity to increase physical activity levels?
  • Do these interventions increase awareness of opportunities for, and benefits of, physical activity?
  • Are there any key harms?
  • Is anything known about whether or how approaches to physical activity could reduce potential harms (e.g., injuries or other problems associated with doing too much too fast)?
  • What resource (time and money) constraints prevent or hinder the implementation of these interventions?
  • Can reliable and valid measures be developed to address the entire spectrum of physical activity, including light or moderate activity?
  • What is the cost-effectiveness of each of these interventions? What combinations of components are most cost-effective?
  • How can effectiveness in terms of health outcomes or quality-adjusted health outcomes be better measured, estimated, or modeled?
  • How can the cost–benefit of these programs be estimated?
  • How do specific characteristics of each of these approaches contribute to economic efficiency?

Study Characteristics

  • Many of the evaluated classes had a behavioral skills component (e.g., role-play, goal-setting, contingency planning) but did not add time for physical activity to the curriculum.
  • Most of the interventions were designed to reduce the risk of developing chronic disease.
  • In most studies, comparison groups received the standard health education curriculum.
  • The duration of intervention activities ranged from 3 months to 5 years.