Bright Futures at Georgetown University
Bright Futures in Practice: Physical Activity


Summary Rationale

Extensive evidence, including information from the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, has documented the health benefits of regular physical activity. The report also indicates that Americans become increasingly less active with each year of age. Inactivity among children has now been linked to sedentary living among adults. For this reason efforts to promote active lifestyles among children have been targeted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as other groups interested in the health and well-being of all Americans. To help health professionals effectively promote physical activity early in children's lives, developmentally appropriate guidelines for activity of elementary school children are outlined below.

Summary Guidelines BFPATO_PR74

  • Elementary school age children should accumulate at least 30 to 60 minutes of age- and developmentally appropriate physical activity from a variety of physical activities on all, or most, days of the week.
  • An accumulation of more than 60 minutes, and up to several hours per day, of age- and developmentally appropriate activity is encouraged for elementary school age children.
  • Some of the child's activity each day should be in periods lasting 10 to 15 minutes or more and include moderate-to-vigorous activity. This activity will typically be intermittent in nature involving alternating moderate-to-vigorous activity with brief periods of rest and recovery.
  • Extended periods of inactivity are inappropriate for children.
  • A variety of physical activities selected from the Physical Activity Pyramid are recommended for elementary school children.

Summary: Important Activity Concepts for Children

Because children are not small adults, activity recommendations should be based on the characteristics of children. Several important concepts outlining the unique characteristics of children are described and provide the basis for recommendations in this report (for more details see the comprehensive report).

Summary: Guidelines for Promoting Physical Activity in Schools & Physical Education

  • Provide time for activity in the school setting
  • Individualize activities
  • Expose youngsters to a variety of physical activities
  • Focus instructional feedback on process, not product
  • Continue to teach physical skills
  • Be an active role model
  • Care about the attitudes of students
  • Teach positive approaches to lifetime activity
  • Promote activity outside the school environment
  • Consider lifetime activities that endure

Source: Adapted, with permission, from Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of Guidelines, p. 3. ©1998, National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

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