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Schools play a critical role in helping children lead active, healthy lives. Recess, PE classes, after-school programs, and walking or biking to and from school all have the potential to get kids moving. Research shows that kids who move more aren’t just healthier, they also tend to do better academically, behave better in class and miss fewer days of school.  Unfortunately, many schools do not offer enough opportunities for children to be active. Policy-makers, teachers and parents can use research on the benefits of school physical activity to advocate for programs and policies that help children be active before, during and after school.

Download our Schools-related Resources Sheet for the best evidence available about a variety of school-based strategies for promoting physical activity.

You can also view and download our The Role of Schools in Promoting Physical Activity infographic.

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Powerup PE

PowerUp P.E. is an initiative that creates and disseminates evidence-based training materials and resources for Physical Education (PE) teachers to help students become more physically active during P.E. PowerUp P.E. offers training videos demonstrating  fun and interactive ways in which elementary school PE teachers can increase their students’ physical activity levels and a downloadable toolkit for PE teachers that complements these videos.

School Physical Activity Policy Measurement

This webinar was designed primarily for researchers interested in studying school physical activity policy. Two leading researchers discussed school physical activity measurement issues including instrumentation to evaluate policy strength and assess district- and school-level physical activity polices and school-level practices. Methods for data collection were emphasized and both presentations highlighted common data collection challenges and recommend strategies for overcoming barriers.

The specific goals of the webinar were to:  

Designing and Conducting Research on Policy Implementation

This webinar, designed primarily for researchers, featured two leading researchers who discussed the design and methods of conducting studies in the area of implementation science as it relates to policy, practice, and environmental changes to promote physical activity. The presentations defined the field of implementation science, introduced implementation theories and outcome models, methods used, and addressed the challenges in this field of study, lessons learned, and recommendations for other researchers who are looking carry out their policy studies. Dr.

Effect of a School Choice Policy Change on Active Commuting to Elementary School


Sirard, J. R., McDonald, K., Mustain, P., Hogan, W., & Helm, A. (2015). Effect of a School Choice Policy Change on Active Commuting to Elementary School. American Journal of Health Promotion, 30(1), 28-35.


PURPOSE: The purposes of this study were to assess the effect of restricting school choice on changes in travel distance to school and transportation mode for elementary school students. DESIGN: Study design was pre-post (spring 2010-fall 2010) quasi-experimental. SETTING: Study setting was all public elementary schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota. SUBJECTS: Subjects comprised approximately 20,500 students across 39 schools. INTERVENTION: Study assessed a school choice policy change that restricted school choice to a school closer to the family's home. MEASURES: School district transportation data were used to determine distance to school. Direct observations of student travel modes (two morning and two afternoon commutes at each time point) were used to assess transportation mode. ANALYSIS: Chi-square and independent-sample t-tests were calculated to describe the schools. Repeated measures general linear models were used to assess changes in travel distance to school and observed commuting behavior. RESULTS: Distance to school significantly decreased (1.83 ± .48 miles to 1.74 ± .46 miles; p = .002). We failed to observe any significant changes in morning (+.7%) or afternoon (-.7%) active commuting (both p = .08) or the number of automobiles in the morning (-7 autos per school; p = .06) or afternoon (+3 autos per school; p = .14). CONCLUSION: The more restrictive school choice policy decreased distance to school but had no significant effect on active commuting. Policy interventions designed to increase active commuting to school may require additional time to gain traction and programmatic support to induce changes in behavior.

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SaludABLEOmaha: Improving Readiness to Address Obesity Through Healthy Lifestyle in a Midwestern Latino Community, 2011-2013


Frerichs, L., Brittin, J., Robbins, R., Steenson, S., Stewart, C., Fisher, C., et al. (2015). SaludABLEOmaha: Improving Readiness to Address Obesity Through Healthy Lifestyle in a Midwestern Latino Community, 2011-2013. Preventing Chronic Disease, 12(E20).


BACKGROUND: A community’s readiness for change is a precursor to the effective application of evidence-based practices for health promotion. Research is lacking regarding potential strategies to improve readiness to address obesity-related health issues in underserved communities. COMMUNITY CONTEXT:  This case study describes SaludABLEOmaha, an initiative to increase readiness of residents in a Midwestern Latino community to address obesity and adopt healthy lifestyles. METHODS: SaludABLEOmaha emphasized 2 core approaches, youth activism and collaboration among public and private institutions, which we applied to planning and implementing tactics in support of 3 interconnected strategies: 1) social marketing and social media, 2) service learning in schools (ie, curricula that integrate hands-on community service with instruction and reflection), and 3) community and business engagement. Following the Community Readiness Model protocol (, structured interviews were conducted with community leaders and analyzed before and 2.5 years after launch of the program. OUTCOME: The community increased in readiness from stage 3 of the Community Readiness Model, “vague awareness,” at baseline to stage 5, “preparation,” at follow-up. INTERPRETATION: SaludABLEOmaha improved community readiness (eg, community knowledge, community climate), which probably contributed to the observed increase in readiness to address obesity through healthy lifestyle. Community mobilization approaches such as youth activism integrated with social marketing and social media tactics can improve community responsiveness to obesity prevention and diminish health disparities.

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Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes (MAPS)


The Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes (MAPS) was developed to collect audit data on the pedestrian environment and walkability in neighborhoods.


“Microscale” factors of the built environment differ from macro-level design elements such as street connectivity and residential density and include details about streets, sidewalks, intersections, and design characteristics (e.g., road crossing features, presence of trees, bicycle lanes, curbs), as well as characteristics of the social environment (e.g., stray dogs, graffiti, trash). Microscale factors may also influence physical activity but have not been studied as extensively as macro-level factors. Studying microscale factors allows for a more fine-grained examination of the environmental features that enable or inhibit physical activity and may be more cost effectively and easily modified than macro characteristics. Microscale data are typically collected using in-person environmental audits.

There are three versions of the MAPS tool, each with varying degrees of complexity and intended users:

  • MAPS-Full: 120-item audit survey, intended for researcher use
  • MAPS-Abbreviated: 60-item audit survey, intended for researcher and advanced practitioner use
  • MAPS-Mini: 15-item audit survey, intended for practitioner, advocacy, and community member use


The MAPS tool and protocols can be found here.

Information specifically on the MAPS-Mini can be found here.

Kelli L. Cain, Rachel A. Millstein, James F. Sallis, Terry L. Conway, Kavita A. Gavand, Lawrence D. Frank, Brian E. Saelens, Carrie M. Geremia, James Chapman, Marc A. Adams, Karen Glanz, Abby C. King
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