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Schools play a critical role in helping children lead active, healthy lives. Recess, PE classes, after-school programs, and walking or biking to and from school all have the potential to get kids moving. Research shows that kids who move more aren’t just healthier, they also tend to do better academically, behave better in class and miss fewer days of school.  Unfortunately, many schools do not offer enough opportunities for children to be active. Policy-makers, teachers and parents can use research on the benefits of school physical activity to advocate for programs and policies that help children be active before, during and after school.

Download our Schools-related Resources Sheet for the best evidence available about a variety of school-based strategies for promoting physical activity.

You can also view and download our The Role of Schools in Promoting Physical Activity infographic.

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Technology Tools for K-12 Community Use: Cost Calculator

Date: 
02/22/2015
Description: 

Workshop at the 2015 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Abstract: 

Data about public school facilities and a vision for equitable access to great school environments drives the work of the 21st Century School Fund (21CSF) and the Center for Cities and Schools (CC+S). In this work shop, participants had an opportunity to see how we link the data, analysis, technology tools and policy and practice reforms. Participants worked with one of the tools--the Joint Use Cost Calculator--and with data supporting this tool, and learn how it can affect policy and practice. The workshop begin with a short presentation on the theory of change used and tested over 20 years at the 21CSF; and used and tested at the CC+S over the last 10 years. Following this presentation; participants learned to work with the Joint use Cost Calculator and explored its use in advancing policy and practice change associated with community use of public school buildings and grounds.

Authors: 
Jeff Vincent, PhD, UC Berkeley Center for Cities and Schools
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The Impact of Changes in State Minimum Acreage Policies on School Siting Practices

Date: 
06/01/2014
Description: 

McDonald, N. C., Salvesen, D. A., Kuhlman, H. R., & Combs, T. S. (2014). The Impact of Changes in State Minimum Acreage Policies on School Siting Practices. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 34(2), 169-179.

Abstract: 

Researchers and advocates have linked state guidelines on minimum acreage for schools to the abandonment of historic schools and increased barriers to walking and biking to school. This study examined how the elimination of minimum acreage standards in four states affected school planning processes and outcomes using mixed methods. We found that states changed school acreage policies because of concerns about sprawl and the rising costs of education facilities. However, changes in state acreage policies have not been accompanied by changes in district-level school planning processes and therefore on-the-ground impacts have been minimal in the years immediately after the policy change.

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Making the Case for Designing Active Cities

Date: 
02/15/2015
Description: 

Sallis, J.F., Spoon, C., Cavill, N., Engelberg, J., Gebel, K., Lou, D., Parker, M., Thornton, C.M., Wilson, A., Cutter, C.L., Ding, D. (2015). Making the Case for Designing Active Cities. San Diego, CA: Active Living Research.

A peer-reviewed paper based on this report is available online through open access in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Abstract: 

Creating "activity-friendly environments" is recommended to promote physical activity, but potential co-benefits of such environments have not been well described. An extensive but non-systematic review of scientific and "gray" literature was conducted to explore a wide range of literature to understand the co-benefits of activity-friendly environments on physical health, mental health, social benefits, safety/injury prevention, environmental sustainability, and economics. Five physical activity settings were defined: parks/trails, urban design, transportation, schools, and workplaces/buildings.

KEY FINDINGS

  • A total of 418 higher-quality findings were summarized based on direction of association and quality of source.
  • The overall summary indicated 22 of 30 setting by outcome combinations showed “strong” evidence of co-benefits.
  • Each setting had strong evidence of at least 3 of the 6 co-benefits, and parks and trails had strong evidence of all 6 co-benefits. Thus, for each setting there are multiple features that can be designed to both facilitate physical activity and produce co-benefits.
  • All five physical activity settings could be designed so they have positive effects on economic outcomes, including increased home value, greater retail activity, reduced health care costs, and improved productivity.
  • Activity-friendly design in all settings had strong evidence of environmental co-benefits based on reduced pollution and carbon emissions.
  • There were many gaps in evidence of co-benefits in the schools and workplace settings as well the health consequences of environments that support active travel.
  • Overall, there was little evidence of negative consequences of activity-friendly environments.

 

IMPLICATIONS

The most important conclusion of this review is that creating communities, transportation systems, schools, and buildings that make physical activity attractive and convenient also produces a wide range of other benefits for communities. Rather than thinking that designing one feature of a transportation system or school is sufficient, we encourage decision-makers and designers to consider how features in all settings can be optimized for physical activity and multiple other benefits. We urge mayors, other city officials, and staff in multiple departments to consult these findings as an aid in decision-making.

DESIGNED TO MOVE: ACTIVE CITIES

The findings from our Making the Case for Designing Active Cities is prominently featured in Designed to Move: Active Cities, a guide for city leaders that provides a comprehensive summary of the evidence base to-date, along with bright spots and specific recommendations for leaders to make any city an active city.

 

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An Assessment of Schoolyard Renovation Strategies to Encourage Children's Physical Activity

Date: 
04/09/2011
Description: 

Anthamatten, P., Brink, L., Lampe, S., Greenwood, E., Kingston, B., & Nigg, C. (2011). An Assessment of Schoolyard Renovation Strategies to Encourage Children's Physical Activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8(27).

Abstract: 

BACKGROUND: Children in poor and minority neighborhoods often lack adequate environmental support for healthy physical development and community interventions designed to improve physical activity resources serve as an important approach to addressing obesity. In Denver, the Learning Landscapes (LL) program has constructed over 98 culturally-tailored schoolyard play spaces at elementary schools with the goal to encourage utilization of play spaces and physical activity. In spite of enthusiasm about such projects to improve urban environments, little work has evaluated their impact or success in achieving their stated objectives. This study evaluates the impacts of LL construction and recency of renovation on schoolyard utilization and the physical activity rates of children, both during and outside of school, using an observational study design. METHODS: This study employs a quantitative method for evaluating levels of physical activity of individuals and associated environmental characteristics in play and leisure environments. Schools were selected on the basis of their participation in the LL program, the recency of schoolyard renovation, the size of the school, and the social and demographic characteristics of the school population. Activity in the schoolyards was measured using the System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity (SOPLAY), a validated quantitative method for evaluating levels of physical activity of individuals in play and leisure environments. Trained observers collected measurements before school, during school recess, after school, and on weekends. Overall utilization (the total number of children observed on the grounds) and the rate of activity (the percentage of children observed who were physically active) were analyzed. Observations were compared using t-tests and the data were stratified by gender for further analysis. In order to assess the impacts of LL renovation, recently-constructed LL schoolyards were compared to LL schoolyards with older construction, as well as un-renovated schoolyards. RESULTS: Overall utilization was significantly higher at LL schools than at un-renovated schools for most observation periods. Notably, LL renovation had no impact on girl's utilization on the weekends, although differences were observed for all other periods. There were no differences in rates of activity for any comparison. With the exception of the number of boys observed, there was no statistically significant difference in activity when recently-constructed LL schools are compared to LL schools with older construction dates and there was no difference observed in comparisons of older LL with unrenovated sites. CONCLUSIONS: While we observed greater utilization and physical activity in schools with LL, the impact of specific features of LL renovation is not clear. However, schoolyard renovation and programs to encourage schoolyard use before and after school may offer a means to encourage greater physical activity among children, and girls in particular. Additional study of schoolyard renovation may shed light on the specific reasons for these findings or suggest effective policies to improve the physical activity resources of poor and minority neighborhoods.

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Maximizing Out-of-School Time: Empowering Afterschool Providers to Create Healthier Communities

Due to the number of US children who attend various types of afterschool care, it is becoming increasingly clear that out-of-school time staff can play an essential role in helping young people eat healthy and stay active. In order to effectively implement programs and policies that advance wellness, however, afterschool staff need high quality tools and resources. This session will outline the value of afterschool care, and provide specific ideas to help make out-of-school time programs part of an effective strategy to help children eat better and move more.

How Can Schools Help Youth Increase Physical Activity? An Economic Analysis Comparing School-Based Programs

Date: 
12/01/2014
Description: 

Babey, S. H., Wu, S., & Cohen, D. A. (2014). How Can Schools Help Youth Increase Physical Activity? An Economic Analysis Comparing School-Based Programs. Preventive Medicine, 69(Suppl), S55-S60.

Abstract: 

OBJECTIVE: For optimal health, physical activity should be an integral and routine part of daily life. Youth spend a significant amount of time at school yet rarely achieve the recommended 60 min of moderate and vigorous physical activity in physical education (PE) classes or recess. This study assessed the following types of school-based opportunities to improve physical activity for youth: after-school programs, before-school programs, PE classes, extended-day PE, and short physical activity breaks during the school day. METHOD: An economic analysis conducted in 2013 compared school-based approaches to increasing physical activity. Analysis factors included costs, reach, effects on physical activity gains, cost-effectiveness, and other potentially augmenting benefits. RESULTS: Two programs were significantly superior in terms of reach and cost per student: (1) extending the school day with mandatory PE participation and (2) offering short (10-minute) physical activity breaks during regular classroom hours. After-school program costs per student are high and the programs have a smaller reach, but they offer benefits (such as childcare) that may justify their higher costs. Before-school programs did not appear feasible. CONCLUSION: Incorporating short physical activity breaks into the existing school day would be a cost-effective way to increase school-based activity. This type of program is inexpensive and has broad reach. Inserting activity breaks throughout the day is appropriate, especially when youth are otherwise largely sedentary.

Location by State: 
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Intervention Fidelity in a Teacher-Led Program to Promote Physical Activity in Preschool-Age Children

Date: 
12/01/2014
Description: 

Alhassan, S., & Whitt-Glover, M. C. (2014). Intervention Fidelity in a Teacher-Led Program to Promote Physical Activity in Preschool-Age Children. Preventive Medicine, 69(Suppl), S34-S36.

Abstract: 

OBJECTIVE: To examine protocol fidelity among teachers involved in a six-month cluster-randomized physical activity (PA) intervention. METHODS: In 2011, preschools in Springfield, MA were randomized to short bouts of structured PA (SBS-PA, n = 5) or unstructured playtime (UPA, n=5). SBS-PA provided structured PA in the classroom during the first 10 min of gross-motor playtime followed by 20 min of unstructured playtime. UPA consisted of 30 min of unstructured playtime. All teachers (SBS-PA and UPA) received a written study protocol and 1.5 h of training. SBS-PA also received videos to use to lead structured PA and 1.5 additional hours of training. Study fidelity and process evaluation were assessed twice weekly via semi-structured questionnaire. RESULTS: Only 56.6% of SBS-PA and 75.2% of UPA free playtimes lasted for 30 min; 86.3% of SBS-PA teachers implemented structured PA during the first 10 min of gross-motor playtime but only 67.2% delivered the intervention as instructed. Only 68.5% of SBS-PA teachers implemented the 20-minute unstructured playtime. SBS-PA teachers reported that time limitations was a major barrier in implementing the designed intervention. Pre-post changes in PA did not differ between groups. CONCLUSION: Limited fidelity to intervention protocol likely impacted study findings. Future studies should focus on strategies to improve adherence among intervention leaders.

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School Gardens and Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Low-Income Elementary Schools

Date: 
12/01/2014
Description: 

Wells, N. M., Myers, B. M., & Henderson, J., Charles R. (2014). School Gardens and Physical Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Low-Income Elementary Schools. Preventive Medicine, 69(Suppl), S27-S33.

Abstract: 

OBJECTIVE: This study examines effects of a school garden intervention on elementary school children's physical activity (PA). Method: Twelve schools in New York were randomly assigned to receive the school garden intervention (n=6) or to the waitlist control group that later received gardens (n=6). PA was measured by self-report survey (Girls Health Enrichment Multi-site Study Activity Questionnaire) (N=227) and accelerometry (N=124, 8 schools) at baseline (Fall 2011) and follow-up (Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013). Direct observation (N = 117, 4 schools) was employed to compare indoor (classroom) and outdoor (garden) PA. Analysis was by general linear mixed models. RESULTS: Survey data indicate garden intervention children's reports of usual sedentary activity decreased from pre-garden baseline to post-garden more than the control group children's (Δ = −.19, p = .001). Accelerometry data reveal that during the school day, children in the garden intervention showed a greater increase in percent of time spent in moderate and moderate-to-vigorous PA from baseline to follow-up than the control group children (Δ = +.58, p = .010; Δ = +1.0, p = .044). Direct observation within-group comparison of children at schools with gardens revealed that children move more and sit less during an outdoor garden-based lesson than during an indoor, classroom-based lesson. CONCLUSION: School gardens show some promise to promote children's PA.

Location by State: 

Impact of Trained Champions of Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs on School Physical Activity Offerings, Youth Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors

Date: 
12/01/2014
Description: 

Carson, R. L., Castelli, D. M., Pulling Kuhn, A. C., Moore, J. B., Beets, M. W., Beighle, A., et al. (2014). Impact of Trained Champions of Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs on School Physical Activity Offerings, Youth Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors. 12/01/2014, 69(Suppl), S12-S19.

Abstract: 

OBJECTIVE: A quasi-experimental cluster-controlled design was used to test the impact of comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP) professional development on changes in school physical activity (PA) offerings, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary behaviors of 9-14 year-old children during school. METHODS: Two groups of Louisiana elementary and middle school physical education teachers (N = 129) attended a CSPAP summer workshop (95 in 2012 = intervention, 34 in 2013 = control) and were assessed on school PA offerings (teacher-reported; pre, mid, and post). During the 2012-2013 school year, intervention teachers received CSPAP support while implementing new school PA programs. MVPA and sedentary behaviors were assessed (accelerometry; baseline and post) on a sample of 231 intervention, 120 control students from 16 different schools. RESULTS: Multivariate analysis of covariance indicated that intervention teachers reported significantly more PA offerings during school (3.35 vs. 2.37) and that involve staff (1.43 vs. 0.90). Three-level, mixed model regressions (stratified by sex) indicated that students overall spent less time in MVPA and more time being sedentary during school, but the effects were significantly blunted among intervention students, especially boys. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides preliminary evidence for CSPAP professional development programs to influence school-level PA offerings and offset student-level declines in MVPA and increases in sedentary behavior.

Location by State: 

Uptake of National AfterSchool Association Physical Activity Standards among US After-School Sites

Date: 
12/01/2014
Description: 

Wiecha, J. L., Hall, G., & Barnes, M. (2014). Uptake of National AfterSchool Association Physical Activity Standards among US After-School Sites. Preventive Medicine, 69(Suppl), S61-S65.

Abstract: 

OBJECTIVE: In 2011, the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) adopted standards to guide delivery of physical activity (PA). We assessed after school sites' uptake of the five PA standards. METHOD: We conducted a descriptive study in fall 2013. NAA emailed 14,000 members requesting that afterschool site directors complete an online questionnaire regarding site characteristics, awareness and use of the standards, and implementation. We calculated implementation scores for each standard by summing points for their component best practices, and examined associations among site characteristics, implementation scores, and awareness and use of the standards. RESULTS: Among 595 respondents, 60% were aware of the PA standards and 43% used them for program planning. Awareness and use were significantly higher among NAA members and among sites that were accredited, licensed, or operated by a parent organization. PA content and quality scores were higher among those aware of and using the standards (p b 0.01) and correlated with scores for staff training and for program, social, and environmental support (p b 0.0001). CONCLUSION: We observed high recognition and use of the NAA PA standards in a national convenience sample of afterschool programs. Their uptake and use are promising lever for increasing the quality of PA in the afterschool setting.

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