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State Policies About Physical Activity Minutes in Physical Education or During the School Day

Carlson JA, Sallis JF, Chriqui JF, Schneider L, McDermid LC, and Agron P. Journal of School Health, 83(3): 150-156, 2013.

Background: School policies can change practices on a relatively permanent basis. This study investigated adoption and implementation of state-level policies specifying minutes (or percent) of physical activity in physical education (PE) or during school.

Methods: Policies were identified from existing databases and rated as having weak, moderate, or strong wording. Interviews with state-level PE coordinators were conducted to investigate the level of implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of the identified policies.

Results: Sixteen states had a policy that met inclusion criteria (19 policies total); 11 states had a policy addressing minutes of physical activity during school, 2 had a policy addressing percent of PE time to be spent in physical activity, and 3 had policies addressing both. None of the 19 policies were rated as having strong wording and 5 were rated as having moderate wording. The range in minutes of physical activity per week addressed in the policies was 60 to 300. Four of the 5 (elementary) and 5 of 5 (middle) policies addressing percent of PE spent physically active specified 50%. The only monitoring efforts reported consisted of schools self-reporting progress to the state.

Conclusions: More states need to adopt school physical activity policies and policy language needs to be more specific to prevent potential loopholes. Monitoring and evaluation strategies, beyond school self-report, are likely needed for these policies to lead to increases in physical activity.

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