Physical Activity & Phys Ed

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Establish and Sustain an Active Lifestyle

PTAs and schools can support active lifestyles for students through physical activity and physical education.

Physical activity is bodily movement of any type, while physical education programs (phys ed, or PE) use physical activity to teach children how to establish and sustain an active lifestyle. Both are important for obesity prevention and a student’s healthy development.

  • Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (CDC) recommend that youth ages 6 through 17 years of age get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day to gain the health benefits of physical activity. Adults caring for children ages 3 through 5 should encourage active play (light, moderate, or vigorous intensity) and aim for at least 3 hours per day.     
  • Physical Education Guidelines: The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) recommends that schools provide 150 minutes of instructional physical education for elementary school children and 225 minutes for middle and high school students per week for the entire school year. This may be a combination of recess, physical education classes, and other physical activity. Unfortunately, many schools fall short of these recommendations, but PTAs can be strong advocates for physical activity in schools.

Physical Education Class

What PTAs Can Do

There are a variety of ways PTAs can establish or enhance physical activity programs or initiatives in schools.

Physical Activity on the Way to and from School

  • Organize a Safe Routes to School program to create a safer environment for children to walk and bike to and from school. Create a walking school bus or bike train—groups of students who walk or bike to school together with parents who rotate supervision duties.
  • National Walk and Bike to School Day: National Walk to School Day is held annually in October and National Bike to School Day is held annually in May. Schools can register their events, download materials, and gather ideas about how to plan and coordinate a National Walk or Bike to School Day at their school by visiting the National Center for Safe Routes to School which coordinates the days.

Advocating for Physical Activity and Physical Education

  • Advocate for quality physical education that meets national guidelines and state standards.
  • Active Schools provides information about a variety of ways to advocate for physical activity in schools.
  • Depending on your state or school district, recess may not be required. PTAs can advocate for recess as part of the instructional day if it is not. National PTA adopted a school recess resolution that supports at least one period of recess for at least 20 minutes for each elementary student each school day. PTAs can also advocate for not using recess or any other type of physical activity as a form of discipline or punishment.
  • PTAs can advocate for their school to participate in the Presidential Youth Fitness Program.
  • School Wellness Policies: PTAs can incorporate physical activity and physical education in school wellness policies. This may include policies around the length and frequency of recess or physical education courses, not using physical activity as a form of discipline, and other ways to support physical activity.

Physical Activity Fundraisers

  • Host Fun Runs, Walk-a-Thons, Turkey Trots, and 5Ks: Your PTA can choose to purchase new playground equipment or athletic equipment with funds raised from these types of fundraisers. You can also accept online donations so that if someone cannot participate, they can still support the event through a donation.

Physical Activity Resources for Families

  • Family Fitness Nights: PTAs may host family fitness nights to promote health and wellness, including physical activity, to students and their families. Consider inviting exercise instructors and health professionals such as doctors or dietitians to promote healthy living. Ensure you have activities for a wide range of skill levels and provide health-related resources for families to take home
  • Local Physical Activity Resources: At Family Fitness Nights, Back to School Nights, or other PTA events, provide students and their families with information about local physical activity resources. This might be information about gyms in town like the local YMCA, recreational league sports for children, or physical activity events like runs or walks.

Grants to Support Physical Activity & Physical Education

There are a variety of organizations that provide funding to schools to support physical activity and physical education.

  • Action for Healthy Kids provides grants to schools to support physical activity.
  • SHAPE America provides grants to schools to enhance health and physical education programs.
  • Clif Bar Family Foundation provides grants that increase opportunities for outdoor activity, which includes physical activity such as hiking, biking, or walking.
  • Good Sports provides grants for new physical activity equipment, apparel, and footwear.

Learn More

  • Active Schools - Free resources and training to help schools increase students’ physical activity before, during and after class.