New Recommendation Highlights Importance of Enhanced School-Based Physical Education

adolescent children running for exercise on an outdoor pathway.The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends enhanced school-based physical education as an effective intervention to increase physical activity. This recommendation is based on a systematic review of all available studies that was conducted with oversight from the Task Force by scientists and subject matter experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners.

What is enhanced school-based physical education?

Enhanced school-based physical education (PE) involves curricular or practice-based changes that increase the amount of time that K-12 students engage in moderate-or vigorous- intensity physical activity during physical education classes. Strategies include the following:

  • Instructional strategies and lessons that increase physical activity (e.g., modifying rules of games, substituting less active games with more active games)
  • Physical education lesson plans that incorporate fitness and circuit training activities.

Program changes may include developing and implementing a well-designed PE curriculum and employing or providing teachers with appropriate training. Programs may be combined with other school- and community-based interventions such as student health education about physical activity, activities that foster family involvement, and community partnerships to increase opportunities for physical activity.

Why is this recommendation important?

Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels (DHHS, 2008a). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6-17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily (DHHS, 2008b).

In a survey of high school students in 2013, only 29 percent had participated in at least 60 minute per day of physical activity on each of the seven days before the survey. 15.2 percent of high school students had not participated in 60 or more minutes of any kind of physical activity on any day during the 7 days before the survey. Participation in physical activity declines as young people age (CDC, 2014).

Studies of enhanced school-based physical education (PE) programs conducted found that students who participated in these programs spent 10 percentage points more time engaging in moderate- to vigorous- intensity physical activity when compared with standard PE classes (Lonsdale, 2013).

What are the Task Force and Community Guide?

  • The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, uncompensated panel of public health and prevention experts. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by providing evidence-based recommendations about community preventive programs, services, and policies to improve health. Its members represent a broad range of research, practice, and policy expertise in community prevention services, public health, health promotion, and disease prevention.
  • The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) is a website that is a collection of all the evidence-based findings and recommendations of the Community Preventive Services Task Force.

For More Information


CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance United States, 2013. MMWR 2014;63(SS-4).

Lonsdale C, Rosenkranz RR, Peralta LR, Bennie A, Fahey P, Lubans DR. A systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions designed to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in school physical education lessons. Prev Med 2013; 56(2):152-61.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008a.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2008b.

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