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Physical Activity and Active Living
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle and boasts many benefits. In combination with a healthy diet, regular physical activity can help prevent a range of chronic diseases – including heart disease, cancer, and stroke – and helps control weight, builds lean muscle, promotes strong bone and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity.
For children and adolescents, getting enough physical activity can also improve academic performance. Studies have found that children who are physically active are more focused and do better academically; physical fitness is also linked to improved test scores. What is more, research has shown that having physical education at school does not lead to a reduction in test scores.
To enjoy the benefits of good health, adults and children need to get enough physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed helpful guidelines to help Americans be healthy:
- Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes of more of physical activity every day, most of which should be of moderate or vigorous-intensity* aerobic physical activity. The 60 minutes per day should also include muscle strengthening (such as weight lifting) and bone strengthening activities (such as running, hopscotch or jumping rope) at least three days per week.
- Adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity*, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Aerobic activity should be done for periods of at least 10 minutes, preferably spread throughout the week. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities (such as lifting weights) that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.
* A person doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity can talk, but not sing, during the activity, and a person doing vigorous-intensity activity cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.
Getting the appropriate amount of physical activity can be difficult. Certain strategies, such as incorporating physical activity into the school day and creating environments that encourage physical activity may help.
Opportunities to incorporate more physical activity into the school day include:
- Classroom-based movement
- Active recess
- Walking or biking to school
- Before and after-school physical activity programs
- Quality physical education at school
The National Association for Sport and Physical Activity (NASPE) has created a great resource that outlines ideas for physical activity during the school day. Download it here. NEA HIN is also a supporter of Let's Move in School.
Strategies to Create School and Community Environments that encourage physical activity include:
- Promote the expansion of walking and biking trails and improved safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in your community
- Create and maintain neighborhoods that are safe and free from crime to encourage outdoor physical activity
- Promote the adoption of state and local policies that encourage bicycling and public transportation
- Improve access to parks and playgrounds through joint-use agreements between cities and schools
Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has developed the Action Strategies Toolkit, which outlines policy and program strategies related to active living and healthy eating. To view the toolkit click here.