Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Get Active and Move More in School (and Have Fun)

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By Nora L. Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network

February is American Heart Month, and NEA HIN believes that schools can help build the heart health of students and staff by making the school day more physically active.  From physical education to recess, there are many ways for schools to become more “active.”  

  • Use the lessons in Healthy Steps for Healthy Lives  to teach children about the importance of physical activity and to build movement into subjects like reading and math.
  • Take an Instant Recess Break with your students. If you go to YouTube and enter “Instant Recess” you will get a number of great videos from Toni Yancy of the University of California, Berkley School of Public Health.  There are videos with professional athletes, videos with hip-hop music, and videos with African dance moves to name a few.
  • Teachers can use an Energizer from the East Carolina University to help students learn AND move.  
  • Teachers and students can also take a Brain Break from the Michigan Department of Education to help your students and staff stay focused

But a physically active school is more than just taking breaks.  It includes physical education as a critical curricular area.  According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, the four components of a High-quality Physical Education Program are:

  • Opportunity to Learn
  • Meaningful Content
  • Appropriate Instruction
  • Student and Program Assessment

Quality physical education programs help all students develop:

  • health-related fitness,
  • physical competence,
  • cognitive understanding,
  • positive attitudes about physical activity

A physically active elementary school also has recess every day for every child.  While unstructured play time is important, there are also things that schools can do to help children be more active at recess. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) offers a webinar on The Power of Inclusive Play that offers tips for making sure that all children, including those with disabilities get opportunities to be physically active.

Finally, a physically active school has policies.  Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn, Chapter D: Policies to Promote Physical Activity from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) provides model policies and the research behind them.  The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) describes the important role that leadership plays in implementing good policies and programs.

Editor’s Note: This post is from our partners at the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN). Each month, we feature a new column on a topic related to school health. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of important health issues that impact schools and offer educators and parents resources to address them.