Physical Activity

Children Running Outside

Engaging in regular physical activity, along with healthy eating, is one of the best things you can do for your health. It plays a key role in maintaining a lifelong healthy weight and preventing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and osteoporosis. Keeping active can also help children maintain focus in and out of school. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children engage in at least one hour of physical activity every day. Reforms have been made at the school district, state, and federal levels to promote physical education and physical activity in both school and after-school settings. Below you will find:

Out of School Time

Out of School Nutrition and Physical Activity (OSNAP)                     

OSNAP LogoAn initiative designed to develop healthy habits related to healthy foods, drinks, and physical activity through sustainable policy and environmental strategies during out of school time programs.

OSNAP promotes the following physical activity goals:
Provide all children with 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
Offer 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity 3 days per week.

OSNAP Tools for change:

Tip Sheets: Physical Activity

Fast Maps for:
Improving Moderate Physical Activity
Improving Vigorous Physical Activity

Policy Writing Guide to lay out your program rules for physical activity

Additional Resources for Physical Activity

Food & Fun

foodfunveggies-kidslogoA curriculum designed to assist program staff in providing healthier environments to children during out-of-school time. Food & Fun Afterschool includes 11 teaching units that use both lessons and activities to encourage healthy behaviors through active play, literacy and math skills development, creative learning, and hands-on snack time activities.

Unit 2: Get Moving

Curriculum Training Resources


Eat Well & Keep Moving

EatWellKeepMoving3rdE_Cover_TiltedAn interdisciplinary elementary school program designed to promote healthful eating and physical activities in school, home, and community environments.

The physical education lessons offer students more traditional physical education activities, many of which also integrate nutrition topics.

Sample Lesson: Five Foods Countdown

Planet Health

An interdisciplinary curriculum focused on improving the health and well-being of sixth through eighth grade students while building and reinforcing skills in language arts, math, science, social studies, and physical education.

Tip Sheet: Activate Your Family


Food & Fun & Family

Food Fun FamilyLearning healthy behaviors begins at home. As a parent or guardian, you have the greatest influence over the foods your child eats and the activities that they do when out of school. The goal of Food, Fun & Family is to help busy parents provide a healthier home environment for their children.

Food & Fun & Family provides resources for the following physical activity goal:
Provide opportunities for your child to engage in at least 1 hour of moderate physical activity every day.

Communities and Decision Makers

Scientific Publications

Cradock AL, Barrett JL, Carter J, McHugh A, Sproul J, Russo ET, Dao-Tran P, Gortmaker SL. Impact of the Boston Active School Day policy to promote physical activity among children. Am J Health Promot. 2014 Jan-Feb;28(3 Suppl):S54-64.

Long MW, Sobol AM, Cradock AL, Subramanian SV, Blendon RJ, Gortmaker SL. School-day and overall physical activity among youth. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Aug;45(2):150-7.

Cradock AL, Barrett JL, Carnoske C, Chriqui JF, Evenson KR, Gustat J, Healy IB, Heinrich KM, Lemon SC, Tompkins NO, Reed HL, Zieff SG. Roles and strategies of state organizations related to school-based physical education and physical activity policies. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2013 May-Jun;19(3 Suppl 1):S34-40.

Gortmaker SL, Lee R, Cradock AL, et al. Disparities in Youth Physical Activity in the United States: 2003-2006. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 May;44(5):888-93.

Gortmaker SL, Lee RM, Mozaffarian RS, Sobol AM, Nelson TF, Roth BA, Wiecha JL. Effect of an After-School Intervention on Increases in Children’s Physical Activity. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Mar;44(3):450-7.

Barrett JL, Hannon C, Keefe L, Gortmaker SL, Cradock AL. Playground renovations and quality at public parks in Boston,Massachusetts, 1996-2007. Prev Chronic Dis. 2011 Jul;8(4):A72. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Cradock AL, O’Donnell EM, Benjamin SE, Walker E, Slining M. A review of state regulations to promote physical activity and safety on playgrounds in child care centers and family child care homes. J Phys Act Health. 2010 Mar 7;Suppl 1: S108-19.

Eyler A, Brownson R, Aytur S, Cradock A, Doescher M, Evenson K, Kerr J, Maddock J, Pluto D, Steinman L, Ohara Tompkins N, Troped P, Schmid T. Examination of Trends and Evidence-Based Elements in State Physical Education Legislation: A Content Analysis. 2010. J Sch Health. 80(7):326-332.

Cradock AL, Melly SJ, Allen JG, Morris JS, Gortmaker SL. Youth destinations associated with objective measures of physical activity in adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2009 Sep;45(3 Suppl):S91-8.

Cradock AL, Melly SJ, Allen JG, Morris JS, Gortmaker SL. Characteristics of school campuses and physical activity among youth. Am J Prev Med. 2007 Aug;33(2):106-13.

Nelson TF, Gortmaker SL, Subramanian SV, Wechsler H. Vigorous physical activity among college students in the United States.J Phys Act Health. 2007 Oct;4(4):495-508.

Peterson KE, Dubowitz T, Stoddard AM, Troped PJ, Sorensen G, Emmons KM. Social context of physical activity and weight status in working-class populations. J Phys Act Health. 2007 Oct;4(4):381-96.

Taveras EM, Field AE, Berkey CS, Rifas-Shiman SL, Frazier AL, Colditz GA, et al. Longitudinal relationship between television viewing and leisure-time physical activity during adolescence. Pediatrics. 2007 Feb;119(2):e314-9.

Bauer KW, Patel A, Prokop LA, Austin SB. Swimming upstream: faculty and staff members from urban middle schools in low-income communities describe their experience implementing nutrition and physical activity initiatives. Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 Apr;3(2):A37. Epub 2006 Mar 15.

Hannon C, Cradock A, Gortmaker SL, Wiecha J, El Ayadi A, Keefe L, Harris A. Play Across Boston: a community initiative to reduce disparities in access to after-school physical activity programs for inner-city youths. Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 Jul;3(3): A100.

Kim D, Subramanian SV, Gortmaker SL, Kawachi I.  US state- and county-level social capital in relation to obesity and physical inactivity: A multilevel, multivariable analysis. Soc Sci Med. 2006 Aug;63(4):1045-59. Epub 2006 Apr 27.

Carter J, Wiecha JL, Peterson KE, Nobrega S, Gortmaker SL.  Planet Health: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum for Teaching Middle School Nutrition and Physical Activity (Second Edition). Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics; 2007.

Cheung L, Dart H, Kalin SR, Gortmaker SL. Eat Well & Keep Moving: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum for Teaching Upper Elementary School Nutrition and Physical Activity (Second Edition). Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics; 2007.

Other Resources