Schools

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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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Promoting Physical Activity in Out-of-School-Time Programs: We Built the Bridge-Can We Walk Over It?

Date: 
12/01/2014
Description: 

Wiecha, J. L., Beets, M. W., Colabianchi, N., Ferree, A., Hall, G., Hofman, J., et al. (2014). Promoting Physical Activity in Out-of-School-Time Programs: We Built the Bridge-Can We Walk Over It? Preventive Medicine, 69(Suppl), S114-S116.

Abstract: 

This commentary describes physical activity standards for Out-of-School Time programs and argues that their widespread adoption presents important opportunities for research on their implementation and impact.

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Effects of Daily Physical Education on Physical Fitness and Weight Status in Middle School Adolescents

Date: 
01/01/2015
Description: 

Erfle, S. E., & Gamble, A. (2015). Effects of Daily Physical Education on Physical Fitness and Weight Status in Middle School Adolescents. Journal of School Health, 85(1), 27-35.

Abstract: 

BACKGROUND: In 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Health developed the Active Schools Program (ASP) which required 30 minutes of daily physical education (PE) in middle schools to reduce childhood obesity. This investigation evaluated the ASP effects on physical fitness and weight status in middle school adolescents throughout 1 academic year. METHODS: A quasi-experimental design was used to recruit middle schools into an intervention group (N = 30) or control group (N = 9). RESULTS: Physical fitness outcomes had larger intervention effects than weight status outcomes. These effects were most profound among at-risk students. Multiple linear regression analysis provided a best-guess effect of daily PE on body mass index (BMI) percentile of -1.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) (-1.9, -0.5) for at-risk females and -0.8, 95% CI (-1.5, -0.1) for at-risk males. Much of this benefit is attributable to the differential increase in physical fitness achieved by students with the benefit of having daily PE. CONCLUSIONS: Thirty minutes of daily PE can be considered a scientific approach to ameliorate health outcomes in at-risk middle school adolescents, particularly among females. Improvements on BMI percentile among at-risk youth are presaged by greater improvements in physical fitness. This investigation supports a school-based approach aimed to improve behavioral risk factors as a means to reduce childhood obesity.

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On the Move: Profiles of Promising Professional Development Initiatvies for Promoting Physical Activity During the Out-of-School Time Hours

Date: 
05/01/2014
Description: 

National Institute on Out-of-School Time and RTI. (2014). On the Move: Profiles of Promising Professional Development Initiatives for Promoting Physical Activity During the Out-of-School Time Hours. Wellesley, MA: Author.

Abstract: 

A profile of six promising professional development initiatives that are hosted by organizations promoting the healthy development of children and youth during the out-of-school time hours. These profiles can inform providers, funders, school administrators and policy-makers about promising approaches to increasing physical activity in out-of-school time programs.

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Persistent Focal Behavior and Physical Activity Performance

Date: 
06/01/2014
Description: 

Erfle, S. E. (2014). Persistent Focal Behavior and Physical Activity Performance. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 18(3), 168-183.

Abstract: 

This article examines the proclivity and performance attributes of focal students across time and activities using data from 9,345 students. Three systematic focal behavior partitions are examined: Across activities, across time, and across activities and time. A student’s performance is focal if it ends in 0 or 5 for push-ups and 0 for curl-ups. Chi-square tests confirm that individual focal outcomes and systematic focal outcomes occur more frequently than random processes would suggest. In each instance, the only cell that is less populated than random processes would suggest is the one that exhibits no systematic focal behavior and the cell that exhibits the greatest deviation from expected is the full focal cell. Focal students outperform their peers on three activities at two assessments. Students with two-systematically focal outcomes have superior performance to students with no systematic focal outcomes but inferior performance to those with three or four focal outcomes.

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Moving Kids Towards Success! School Policies that Support Active, Attentive Students

Children who are physically active and fit tend to perform better in the classroom, but many schools allow little to no time for students to be active, due to a lack of resources, personnel, or time in the day. Policies that support daily physical education and regular activity breaks during the school day can help increase physical activity, elevate physical fitness levels, and improve academic performance and classroom behavior among students.

Physical Activity School Score (PASS)

Description: 

PASS is a free, user-friendly, web-based, 8-item tool that assesses and increases awareness of evidence-based physical activity practices at elementary schools.

Date: 
04/14/2014
Abstract: 

PASS increases awareness of evidence-based PA practices (e.g., PE, recess, activity breaks, active transport). We reviewed evidence-based literature, created PASS, revised it on reviews of teachers and administrators, and developed an on-line version.

Individuals (especially parents, teachers, school administrators, and school board members) interested in learning about and assessing physical activity opportunities at their local elementary school are invited to use PASS. Completing PASS takes about 5 minutes.

Upon completing each of the 8 items, respondents receive a numerical score with feedback and evidence-based recommendations on how the school can improve. After the last question, an overall school score is provided along with a corresponding grade (A-F). Respondents can compare their school score with other schools that are within and outside their state and can gain access relevant evidence-based information online.

To view how the PASS tool works use: https://unlv.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_b1xrJyPPLYa3I0Z

To assess an elementary school using PASS enter: https://unlv.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_71ncSsiDtKTPctn

Authors: 
Monica A.F. Lounsbery, PhD, University of Nevada, Las Vegas & Thomas L. McKenzie, PhD, San Diego State University
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Physical Education Course Substitutions: Are They Comparable?

Date: 
03/12/2014
Description: 

Presentation at the 2014 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Abstract: 

Background and Purpose
Though physical education (PE) is a key evidence-based strategy for providing and promoting physical activity, there are many practice and policy challenges that interfere with it reaching its full potential to impact health outcomes. Among these challenges is the pervasive practice of allowing alternative programs such as Junior Officer Reserve Corps (JROTC) to substitute for PE enrollment. How closely these alternative programs reach the outcomes of PE, including the provision or promotion of physical activity remains unclear.  Given the critical need for the accrual of moderate to vigorous physical activity and the importance of PE in promoting it, substitution policies for PE classes should be based on evidence-- yet none exists. Hence, the purpose of this study was to initiate a line of research aimed at building an evidence base on physical activity levels and lesson contexts to assess comparability of high school PE and the courses/programs commonly substituted for it.

Objectives
This study aimed to compare student physical activity levels and lesson contexts during high school PE and JROTC, a common PE course substitution.

Methods
We identified 12 high schools from a large southwestern urban school district that provided both PE and JROTC. From these, we randomly selected 4 schools to participate in the study. Within each school we recruited 2 PE and 2 JROTC teachers to participate by allowing us to observe one of their randomly selected intact class of students on typical school days during one week. Two trained observers used the System for Observing Fitness Instruction Time (SOFIT) to collect physical activity and lesson context data during 38 PE and 38 JROTC lessons. IOA was conducted on 10% of PE lessons and 25% of JROTC lessons and was found to be 93% for physical activity and 99% for lesson context in PE and 96% for both physical activity and lesson context for JROTC. Two-tailed t-tests were used to examine PE and JROTC differences in the percentage of class time spent in physical activity and lesson context categories. Given that some outcomes were not normally distributed, negative binomial models were used to analyze the rate (incidence density ratio) of student physical activity and lesson context variables. Binary logistic regression models were used to analyze the difference between PE and JROTC classes in odds of providing at least 50% of time in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Results
Students engaged in significantly more moderate to vigorous physical activity during PE lessons than JROTC lessons (61 vs. 23%; t=8.64; p<.001). Students in PE spent significantly more time walking and engaging in vigorous activities while those in JROTC spent significantly more time sitting and standing. Significantly more PE lessons engaged students in at least 50% of class time in moderate to vigorous physical activity (76 vs. 8%; t=8.27; p<.001). PE teachers allocated significantly more class time for fitness and game play and teachers of JROTC lessons allocated significantly more time for knowledge and skill development. Knowledge time during PE (100%) focused on physical fitness, motor skill development, and game strategy concepts, while most knowledge time (83%) in JROTC focused on drill, inspections, and military history and strategies. Results of negative binomial models showed that PE lessons provided moderate to vigorous physical activity at a rate almost three times higher than JROTC lessons (p<.001) while sedentary behavior time in PE was almost half that of JROTC (p<.001). Results of binary logistic regression models indicated that compared with JROTC lessons, PE lessons had significantly greater odds of meeting the recommendation of students spending at least 50% of class time in moderate to vigorous physical activity (OR=37.59; p<.001; 95% CI: 9.31-151.86).

Conclusions
Students enrolled in JROTC engaged in significantly less moderate and vigorous physical activity than students in PE and they were significantly more sedentary. JROTC provided students “physical training” only one day per week and on other days lessons were delivered in the classroom. Lesson context data also indicated contrasting subject matter delivery. Overall, we found no compelling similarities between PE and JROTC during the observed lessons and therefore failed to find evidence to substantiate the substitution of JROTC classes for PE.

Implications for Practice and Policy
This study highlighted that education policy makers may need to re-evaluate the process for approving course substitutions for required PE. At the very least, prior to being accepted as a substitute for PE, programs should be evaluated for their ability to provide and promote physical activity.

Authors: 
Monica Lounsbery, PhD, Kathryn Holt, MS, Shannon Monnat, PhD, & Thomas McKenzie, PhD
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Study Type: 

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Providing Coaching and Technical Assistance during Implementation of a New School Physical Education Law in Rhode Island

Date: 
03/12/2014
Description: 

Presentation at the 2014 Active Living Research Annual Conference.

Abstract: 

Background and Purpose
Given the central role of physical activity (PA) in the prevention of obesity and the current high prevalence rates of childhood obesity, there is an urgent need for the effective implementation of policy, program and environmental supports to help children be more physically active. Schools are an important setting for this. The focus of this study is the implementation of a new RI law that specifies both the quantity and quality of physical education (PE) offered to RI students. In 2008, Rhode Island passed General Law 16-22-4, mandating the amount (100 minutes/week) and type (i.e. focus on health-related fitness rather than sports/competition) of physical education (PE) to be offered to school students. RI schools were supposed to be in compliance with Law by 2012 but few were. Experience with RI school nutrition regulations suggests that providing training and technical assistance to schools prior to implementing new state-wide regulations results in better outcomes. A similar approach could be helpful for physical activity. To evaluate the effectiveness of providing training and technical assistance to RI schools to improve compliance with a new law (RI General Law 16-22-4), which mandates the amount (100 minutes/week) and type of PE (i.e. focus on developing and maintaining health-related fitness, rather than on sports/competition).

Objectives
The overall goal of this study is to evaluate whether the two schools that receive coaching, training and technical assistance in their final year of implementing RI’s new PE Law  have better PA outcomes than two matched control schools that receive no coaching, training or technical assistance.

Specific Aim 1: Evaluate whether the intervention schools’ teachers, administrators, students and school improvement teams have greater increases in knowledge, skills, enthusiasm, motivation and support for the new PE law than their counterparts in the control schools; Specific Aim 2: Evaluate whether the intervention schools have a greater increase in compliance with the new PE law than the control schools; Specific Aim 3: Evaluate whether students attending the intervention schools have greater increases in PA levels (during school) than students in the control schools.

Methods
Four low-income, elementary schools in two RI cities were recruited and demographically matched. Baseline measures were conducted in Fall/Winter 2011-12 and follow-up data was collected in Fall/Winter 2012-13 with school staff and 220, 3rd and 4th grade students and included: Accelerometer measurement of students' PA  on the days of PE class over a 2-eeek period; Observations of the quality and quantity of PA during PE classes for 2 weeks using the System for Observing Fitness Instruction (SOFIT) tool; Pre-post student surveys regarding behaviors, perspectives and PA and PE practices; Pre-post focus groups with students; and Pre-post key informant interviews with principals, PE teachers, classroom teachers and parents. Intervention: Training and technical assistance was provided to the 2 intervention schools' PE teachers by an 'expert' PE coach/teach between March and June and in Sept and Oct of 2012.

Results

  1. RI elementary schools fall short of state legislation guidelines for amount and type of PE. At both baseline and follow-up, none of the schools met the RI-law mandated 100 minutes per week of PE.
  2. The average # of weekly minutes spent in PE class was 72.
  3. Baseline PA levels did not differ by school.
  4. Baseline SOFIT data showed that 79% of time spent in PE class was non-moderate/vigorous PA (MVPA)
  5. Baseline accelerometer data showed that 76% of time in PE class was spent in non-moderate/vigorous PA (MVPA) and only 24% of PE class time  was spent in moderate-vigorous PA (MVPA).
  6. At follow-up, accelerometer data showed that intervention school students had statistically significant higher levels of MVPA during PE class; however overall levels were still low.
  7. One of the biggest issues was that teachers spent too much time talking and instructing children and the children were inactive during these times.
  8. The number of minutes of PE did not change over time.

 

Conclusions
Students in the intervention schools (where PE teachers received training and technical assistance) demonstrated a significantly larger increase in MVPA during the school day than students in control schools where PE teachers received no training. However, overall rates of PA in PE class were still low. We will discuss the challenges encountered and the implications of these findings.

Implications for Practice and Policy
Many states, cities and towns are in the process of, and/or considering, changing laws governing PE in schools to increase students' PA levels. In order to obtain the desired results from these laws, they should consider including funding for, and/or mandating, PE teacher training and technical assistance prior to the final policy implementation date to provide them with the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to make effective changes in their teaching methods and practices so that policy changes can be more effective.

Support / Funding Source
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Living Research.

Authors: 
Kim Gans, PhD, MPH, LDN, Patricia Risica, PhD,RD, Judith Salkeld, MS, RD, & Gemma Gorham, MPH
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