Physical Education and Activity: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000

By Burgeson, Charlene R.; Wechsler, Howell et al. | Journal of School Health, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Physical Education and Activity: Results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2000


Burgeson, Charlene R., Wechsler, Howell, Brener, Nancy D., Young, Judith C., Spain, Christine G., Journal of School Health


The landmark 1996 Surgeon General's report Physical Activity and Health[1] identified the substantial health benefits of regular participation in physical activity including reducing the risks of dying prematurely; dying prematurely from heart disease; and developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. The report made clear that the health benefits of physical activity are not limited to adults. Regular participation in physical activity during childhood and adolescence helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints; helps control weight, build lean muscle, and reduce fat; prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure; helps reduce blood pressure in some adolescents with hypertension; and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.

Schools can provide many opportunities for young people to engage in physical activity and can play an important role in motivating young people to stay active. In 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published research-based Guidelines for School and Community Programs to Promote Lifelong Physical Activity Among Young People.[2] These guidelines outline a comprehensive approach to promoting physical activity through schools with quality, daily physical education; classroom health education that complements physical education by giving students the knowledge and self-management skills needed to maintain a physically active lifestyle; daily recess periods for elementary school students; and extracurricular physical activity programs, including intramural activities, physical activity clubs, and interscholastic sports.

During the past six years, national standards for youth physical activity programs have been developed and widely disseminated. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) published the National Standards for Physical Education,[3] National Standards for Beginning Physical Education Teachers,[4] and National Standards for Athletic Coaches,[5] and the National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities (NCPERID) published the Adapted Physical Education National Standards.[6] The standards for physical education describe what students should know and be able to do while the standards for beginning physical education teachers, athletic coaches, and adapted physical education teachers describe the content and skills these individuals should master.

The importance of physical education in promoting the health of young people is supported by three Healthy People 2010[7] objectives:

22-8 Increase the proportion of the Nation's public and private schools that require daily physical education for all students.

22-9 Increase the proportion of adolescents who participate in daily school physical education.

22-10 Increase the proportion of adolescents who spend at least 50 percent of school physical education class time being physically active.

Two additional school-related physical activity objectives include:

15-31 Increase the proportion of public and private schools that require use of appropriate head, face, eye, and mouth protection for students participating in school-sponsored physical activities.

22-12 Increase the proportion of the Nation's public and private schools that provide access to their physical activity spaces and facilities for all persons outside of normal school hours (that is, before and after the school day, on weekends, and during summer and other vacations).

In fall 2000, public awareness of the importance of physical activity for youth was heightened when the White House released Promoting Better Health for Young People Through Physical Activity and Sports: A Report to the President from the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education.[8] The report identified 10 strategies designed to promote lifelong participation in enjoyable and safe physical activity and sports. …

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