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While academic research has focused on using school as a setting in which to teach. Such efforts may be particularly important as sedentarism appears to track among individuals from childhood to adulthood Gordon-Larsen et al.

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Light-intensity physical activity, including playing or even just standing, is more difficult to measure than vigorous-or moderate-intensity physical activity, but its positive health impact is increasingly being recognized see Box in Chapter 2. The finding of this survey also suggests that promotion of vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity may not decrease sedentarism but rather might replace light-intensity physical activity. Therefore, the optimal way to promote an overall increase in physical activity including light-intensity physical activity may be to use behavioral approaches to decrease sedentarism, as has been shown in behavioral research Epstein et al.

One of the challenges to monitoring sedentarism is the fact that children and adolescents frequently multitask. As noted earlier, Rideout and colleagues found that U.

This figure represents an overall increase in sedentarism since , when the corresponding figures were 6. Television content still dominated sedentary time, accounting for 4. Computer use for schoolwork not included in these totals averaged 16 minutes, while computer use for recreational purposes totaled 1. On a typical day, 70 percent of youth went online for any purpose, including 57 percent at home, 20 percent at school, and 14 percent elsewhere.

It is unknown whether all online activities at school were related to schoolwork. Usually, these perceived norms are not in line with healthy or academically productive behaviors, and cannot be countered by the best efforts of parents and teachers. In addition to television and desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and cell phones often follow children and adolescents into the school bus, class, recess, and after-school activities unless such access is limited by policy, providing increasing opportunities to be sedentary on school grounds.

In an average of 20 percent of media consumption, more than 2 hours per day, occurred with mobile devices, some of this media use likely occurring on school grounds. This figure probably has increased since then. Rideout and colleagues also note that children whose parents make an effort to limit media use spend less time consuming media, but whether this holds true for limits on recreational sedentarism in the school setting is unknown.


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Both recreational and nonrecreational sedentarism in schools need to be monitored separately from physical activity. Specific school policies, based on updated knowledge of media use, need to focus on decreasing recreational sedentarism in school and integrating prevention of recreational sedentarism outside of school into the education curriculum.

Because media use among youth already is significantly higher than recommended, schools should not provide students with increased opportunities for sedentarism, such as television sets in classrooms, the cafeteria, or after-school programs; access to social networks and recreational media on school computers; or the ability to use cell phones anywhere and at any time on school grounds or school transportation.

Research is needed to explore sedentarism and media use in schools more systematically so that evidence-based school policies to decrease these behaviors can be implemented to increase overall, including light-intensity, physical activity. In particular, surveys of media use are needed to document the amount of recreational sedentarism taking place in the school setting, where, in contrast with the home setting, public health policy can potentially be implemented. School physical activity programs are needed so that schools can ensure they are providing students with 60 minutes or more of vigorous-.

Physical activity programs are neither equivalent to nor a substitute for physical education, and both can contribute meaningfully to the development of healthy, active children NASPE and AHA, The former are behavioral programs, whereas the latter are instructional programs. Box presents the Healthy People objectives for non—physical education physical activity opportunities in school settings.

The following sections describe various non—physical education opportunities for physical activity in the school environment. The discussion includes relevant policies, barriers, and enablers. An emerging strategy for increasing daily participation in physical activity in schools is the implementation of structured, classroom-based physical activity breaks. Classroom physical activity includes all activity regardless of intensity performed in the classroom during normal classroom time.

It includes activity during academic classroom instruction as well as breaks from instruction specifically designed for physical activity.

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It also includes time spent learning special topics e. It excludes physical education and recess even if conducted in the classroom by the usual classroom teacher. It also excludes physical activity breaks during lunchtime. Although some discussions of schooltime activity breaks include such breaks during lunchtime Turner and Chaloupka, , the committee views lunchtime physical activity as more akin to activity during recess and before and after school than to physical activity during normal academic classroom time.

A typical break consists of minutes focused on vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity. This strategy has been found to be effective in significantly increasing physical activity levels of school-age children Ernst and Pangrazi, ; Scruggs et al. Bassett and colleagues found that classroom activity breaks provide school-age children with up to 19 minutes of vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity, and the sustained use of such breaks was shown to decrease body mass index BMI in students over a period of 2 years Donnelly et al.

The effectiveness of classroom physical activity breaks is discussed further in Chapter 7. An example of an effective school-based physical activity program is Take 10! Kibbe and colleagues provide consistent evidence that the Take 10! At the same time, it should be emphasized that, while the benefits of small increases in physical activity during the school day need to be recognized, the ultimate goal of policy makers and advocates should be to ensure that all schools have comprehensive physical education programs see Chapter 5.

It was found that these curriculum-based activities improved time on task immediately following the breaks, especially in children who were overweight; these students went from being on task 58 percent of the time on typical instruction days to 93 percent of the time after the breaks Grieco et al. These findings emphasize the effectiveness and feasibility of providing classroom-based structured opportunities for physical activity.

Breaks in the classroom provide an additional opportunity for physical activity throughout the school day with minimal planning, no equipment, and a short amount of time required; they can also incorporate learning opportunities for students. It should be noted that the literature tends to focus on the effect of classroom physical activity breaks on elementary school rather than secondary school students.

For classroom-based physical activity breaks to become a priority, it will be important to provide evidence that such breaks do not detract from academic achievement. Chapter 4 provides an extensive review of the evidence showing that physical activity in general has positive effects on academic performance. With respect to classroom-based physical activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC reviewed studies examining the association between such activity and academic performance in elementary school—age children.

Eight of nine published studies found positive effects on such outcomes as academic achievement and classroom behavior; only one study found no relationship Ahamed et al. Donnelly and Lambourne provide further support for the link between physical activity and positive cognitive and academic outcomes in elementary school—age children.

In addition, studies in elementary school—age children have found an increase in on-task behavior in the classroom after participation in a physical activity break Jarrett et al. They also found that the 20 percent of students who were off task improved the most in time on task. Finally, a meta-analysis by Erwin and colleagues found that breaks increase the frequency of physical activity behaviors and have positive learning outcomes.

It should be noted that the effect and benefits of classroom-based physical activity breaks in preschool populations have not been thoroughly investigated. Classroom physical activity breaks are a relatively new approach to promoting physical activity during the school day. Consequently, research on policies that support or hinder the use of this approach is sparse. For this approach to become more prevalent, supportive policies will be necessary, an observation supported by the fact that just one in four U. Research clearly demonstrates the important role of state laws and school district policies in promoting physical activity opportunities in schools.

For example, schools are more likely to meet physical education recommendations when state laws and school district policies mandate a specific amount of time for physical education classes Slater et al. Currently, few if any school districts require that physical activity opportunities be provided throughout the school day or within the classroom Chriqui et al.

Therefore, research is needed to identify strategies for implementing classroom-based physical activity breaks and providing teachers with the skills and confidence necessary to engage students in these activities. In addition, questions remain about the optimal duration, timing, and programming e. One factor that influences classroom physical activity breaks is competition for time during the school day, arising from the need for schools to meet the academic requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act see Chapter 5. As discussed above and in Chapter 4 , however, the literature clearly supports that classroom physical activity breaks are not only beneficial in promoting physical activity in children and youth but also can occur in the classroom without compromising learning and in fact improve academic performance and related classroom behaviors.

In addition, research has shown that using innovative curriculum change, such as Physical Activity Across the Curriculum Donnelly et al.

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Dwyer and colleagues , for example, document the lack of facilities and equipment for physical activity breaks. From the literature, classroom physical activity breaks appear to be heavily implemented in early childhood and elementary classrooms CDC, Few if any classroom physical activity breaks appear to occur in middle and high school settings. The lack of physical activity breaks for this age group may be due to the increased academic demands of testing, along with difficulty of implementing breaks that target these older students.

However, classroom-based physical activity curricula are emerging at a rapid rate. The Ultimate Wellness Challenge, and approximately 50 others. These resources can be found through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation at www. They provide an excellent starting point for teachers and are flexible enough to be modified to meet the needs of specific classrooms.

Space is another concern for classroom teachers, who must consider the safety of students.