CPSTF Recommends Classroom-based Physical Activity Interventions

Elementary school children walk through a school hallway.The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends two classroom-based interventions to increase physical activity: physical activity breaks and physically active lessons.

A team of specialists in systematic review methods and physical activity research, practice, and policy selected and evaluated two published reviews:

Masini A, Marini S, Gori D, Leoni E, Rochira A, Dallolio L. Evaluation of school-based interventions of activity breaks in primary schools: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 2020;23:377-84.

Norris E, van Steen T, Direito A, Stamatakis E. Physically active lessons in schools and their impact on physical activity, educational, health and cognition outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020;54:826-38.

Evidence from the review of physical activity break interventions showed increases in physical activity among primary school students. Evidence from the review of physically active lessons reported increases in physical activity and improvements in educational outcomes. Both types of interventions were delivered by trained teachers who had access to web or video resources designed to engage students in exercises or dance routines.

What are classroom-based physical activity breaks?

Teachers lead students in physical activity during breaks between classroom lessons. Sessions lasting between four and ten minutes are scheduled from one to three times each school day.

What are classroom-based physically active lesson interventions?

Teachers integrate bouts of physical activity into lessons taught inside or outside of the classroom. Physically active lessons are scheduled every day or several times per week and typically last from 10 to 30 minutes.

Why is this important?

Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, improves cognitive function, and reduces risk of depression (HHS 2018). In addition, when youth are regularly physically active, they increase their chances for a healthy adulthood and reduce their risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension (HHS 2018). Schools are uniquely suited to help students achieve the 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

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