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Next Steps for Physical Activity

Sponsor: Dannon Institute

Set and monitor activity goals rather than fitness goals. Schools often assess physical fitness but measures of physical activity (e.g. minutes of activity per day) are perhaps a more effective indicator. Additionally, measuring physical activity sends a message to kids that being active is important. Some kids may not be successful in fitness goals but all kids can be successful in physical activity.

Assess how much time kids spend being active. Many schools provide 150 minutes of physical activity per week, as mandated by their state, but they don’t measure time spent being active. Pedometers and student activity logs are simple tools for students and teachers to use and again send the message that simply being active is very important.

Use physical activity assessment to evaluate activity and physical education programming. Assessment should not be used to compare teachers or schools to one another. Assessments provide benchmarks that can be used to evaluate changes over time or to document compliance with wellness policies.

Encourage activity throughout the day in the classroom. Short 10-minute activities designed for the classroom (e.g., marching in place, stretching, or counting steps using a pedometer) have been shown to increase student productivity and learning. Some exercises can even be used in conjunction with other classroom subjects, like counting steps during math class.

Communicate to parents the importance of activity outside of school. Parents should be involved in school activity promotion. Schools regularly encourage parents to read to their children; they also should remind parents to help their children to be more active. Half of a child’s 60 minutes of physical activity each day should come at home.

By Gregory J. Welk, Ph.D.

Greg Welk studies physical activity in youth and develops effective techniques to promote and evaluate activity patterns in children. His current work also explores parental influences on child physical activity.