In the last two decades, the promotion of physical activity has emerged as a primary outcome variable for all school Physical Education programs. Thus, they apply to any Physical Education program, regardless of its curricular orientation. For example, a program with an outdoor adventure focus would still want to make these outcomes part of its mission. Programs that employ Sport Education also have a responsibility to optimize students’ opportunities to accumulate ample physical activity both in Physical Education classes and throughout the school day.
Accumulating Physical Activity
The accumulation of physical activity both within and beyond classes is thus a central outcome. The long-term goal is for students to value physical activity so much that they make it part of their daily lives. The expectation for in-class physical activity should be part of every Sport Education season. Students’ physical activity should be primarily at the moderate level of intensity (which equates to the energy needed for a brisk walk). This criterion is based on a substantial body of research showing that regular engagement in physical activity that reaches moderate levels of intensity is associated with important health benefits. This outcome aligns with U.S. efforts aimed at increasing physical activity of children and adolescents (USDHHS, 2008a, 2008b).
Specifically, one of the U.S. health objectives in the proposed Healthy People 2020 states that in secondary school classes, all adolescents should engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 50 percent of the class time (USDHHS, 2008b). The underlying philosophy of Sport Education coupled with effective implementation of managerial and instructional strategies enables students to reach this goal (Hastie & Trost, 2002).
However, Physical Education will still fall well short of its overall mission if students are only active when their teacher is watching them during class. We must employ strategies that encourage students to seek out physical activity on their own. This becomes especially critical as students move into adolescence. During their high school years, students increasingly make their own decisions about how to spend their discretionary time. Thus, the outcome of out-of-class physical activity is important, especially because Physical Education programs in most U.S. schools own only a limited amount of the weekly curricular time. There is evidence that the majority of students’ total daily physical activity is accumulated outside of Physical Education classes (e.g., Tudor-Locke et al., 2006).
The recent U.S. national recommendations for physical activity (USDHHS, 2008a) provide a specific target relative to time spent in various kinds of physical activity, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities. Children and youths should spend at least 60 minutes in a combination of these activities on a daily basis, with each type of activity included on at least three days per week.
The school campus is a prime setting where students spend a significant amount of time during the day (CDC, 2001). As noted in chapter 2, there are multiple ways to foster out-of-class physical activity. Throughout the school day there are blocks of time where students can engage in physical activity (i.e., before school, lunch and recess, after school). The key is to optimize access to physical activity on campus and promote the use of such opportunities on an ongoing basis.