The role of physical education and what schools can do to help increase physical activity among children are paramount (Pate et al., 2006). The type of curriculum may influence activity levels; therefore, it is important to evaluate how the models impact activity levels. Recent discussion has focused on types of curriculum models used in physical education (Pate et al., 2006). Physical education curricula can be highly effective in increasing physical activity at school (Graham, HoltHale, & Parker, 2006). With many different types of curricula to choose from, which is preferred? The most common physical education curriculum in both elementary and secondary physical education classes seems to be an activity-based model or a combination of features from several models (Kelly & Melograno, 2004). Others have indicated the majority of K-6 programs emphasize a skill theme approach (Graham et al., 2006), while secondary programs emphasize sport themes (Strong et al., 2005).
In the past 30 years, the percentage of youth who are overweight has tripled (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002). Researchers, teachers, and authors have suggested that teaching physical activity and physical fitness concepts be a priority in physical education (Pangrazi, 2007). Recent studies have examined the obesity prevalence among children and adolescents in the U.S. It has been estimated that 16.3% of children aged 2-19 years were obese, at or above the 95th percentile using BMI-for-age growth charts (Hedley et. al., 2004; Ogden, Carroll, & Flegal, 2008).
Based on data that indicate increasing levels of obesity in youth and young adults, the most logical approach would be to utilize the fitness model in physical education. The fitness model provides the philosophy of improving the quality and length of life through fitness knowledge, attitudes, and activity, with the goal of improving the individual's fitness status. Findings from researchers studying the effectiveness of the fitness approach in physical education overwhelmingly recommend a fitness curriculum (fitness instruction and fitness activities) over other models (McKenzie et al., 1996; McKenzie, Sallis, Kolody, & Faucette, 1997; Simons-Morton, Parcel, Baranowski, Forthofer, & O'Hare, 1991). Yet researchers also have noted numerous drawbacks (e.g., cost, time, training) to these types of fitness programs (Faucette, Nugent, Sallis, & McKenzie, 2002). For a fitness model to be effective, it must be implemented with trained physical education specialists (Sallis & Owen, 1999) and this model typically requires more money to train and hire physical education teachers.
If the fitness approach is not the primary curriculum model used in schools, then are the other models providing enough physical activity for the students? Jewett, Bain, and Ennis (1995) admitted that research findings support the important contribution of exercise to health; however, they reported mixed findings when using the fitness model. A few studies reported that a fitness approach provided more physical activity (as measured by total steps taken) than other models (McKenzie et al., 1996; McKenzie et al., 1997; Simons-Morton et al., 1991). Coupled with these mixed results, researchers have noted that more studies need to be devoted to studying practical physical education curriculum models in "real-world" settings (Faucette et al., 2002). Regardless of the physical education curriculum model selected, monitoring the activity levels can be accomplished via individual pedometers. Using such a measurement tool has been recommended (Eston, Rowlands, & Ingledew, 1998). According to Scruggs, Beveridge, Watson, and Clocksin (2005), "for a practical physical activity measurement tool, pedometry has been found to be valid and objective" (p. 174).
The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of the three most common (Graham et al., 2006; Kelly & Melograno, 2004; Pangrazi, 2007) physical education curriculum models on physical activity. …