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Are your students receiving quality physical education each day? A quality PE program that meets national guidelines is the cornerstone for a physically active school and helps support improved classroom behavior, physical fitness, and standardized test scores. Physical education programs provide standards-based daily learning opportunities, age- and developmentally-appropriate instruction, meaningful content and ongoing assessment. The skills, knowledge, and behaviors learned in PE help kids to establish and maintain active lifestyles well into adulthood.

Physical education is best and most impactful when instructed by a certified or licensed physical education teacher. SHAPE (Society for Health and Physical Educators) America recommends that schools provide 150 minutes of instructional PE for elementary students and 225 minutes for middle and high school students per week for the entire school year. Because physical education is based on a comprehensive, content-specific instructional curriculum, it should not be compared to or confused with other school-based physical activities such as recess, intramural sports, brain breaks or classroom energizers.

Take Action

Follow these suggestions to incorporate daily physical education into your school.

  • Check out your state’s physical education mandates and ensure that your school is meeting or exceeding the specific guidelines.
  • Leverage your school health team to advocate for quality physical education that meets 150 minutes weekly for elementary school children and 225 minutes weekly for middle and high school students.
  • Read through your district’s Local School Wellness Policy.
      • Check to see if your school specifies a required number of instructional PE minutes each week.
      • Determine if students are permitted to sign opt out waivers for physical education. If so, work with the school administration and School Board to decrease the number of waivers granted or to deny waivers entirely.
      • Look for language requiring PE to be taught by licensed or certified physical education teachers.
  • Use a comprehensive and age-appropriate physical education curriculum. SHAPE America provides a guide to help align your curriculum with national standards.
  • Ensure the teacher/student ratio in physical education is similar to other classroom sizes for optimal instruction and student safety.
  • Conduct an inventory of your physical education environment and equipment. Consider activities that can be easily implemented in various areas outside a traditional school gymnasium such as the hallway, classroom, and outside.
  • Apply for a grant from Action for Healthy Kids to enhance your PE program and equipment needs.
  • Make this activity inclusive for all abilities: Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) that include physical education goals and objectives should be available for all students with identified disabilities.

Social Emotional Health Highlights

Activities such as these help students explore…

Self-Awareness & Self-Management: Daily physical education provides opportunities for children to identify and manage their emotions through movement. Endorphins from movement enhance our moods and prepare us to use our brains in creative ways, – positively impacting student health and academic success.

Social Awareness and Relationship Skills: The great part about daily physical education is the ample opportunities for team sports and games that it provides! Including more team and partner work into class teaches children how to be respectful team members inside and outside of the classroom. Many games require skills in communication and social engagement, which are valuable assets for children in all walks of life.


Work to have students moderately to vigorously active for at least 50% of each physical education class. Simple strategies include reducing class size, implementing instant activities, assigning routines, and utilizing PE technology such as heart rate monitors or pedometers.

Scheduling can be tough. If your school is unable to schedule daily PE, consider reworking your schedule so that all students receive the recommended minutes of weekly instruction.

An important component of a quality PE program is an adapted PE program to support all students. Be sure to create ways for all students to participate!

Remember that daily PE should complement your Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP).

Engage your students! Ask your older students to help plan or lead a day of physical education.

Engage parents in physical education. Invite them to participate with their students for a day to highlight the importance of daily PE.

Engaging volunteers has a wide range of benefits. Volunteers can offer new perspectives and make a lasting impact and contribution through their knowledge base and support. Volunteers can provide an extra helping hand or a needed, valuable skill set. Who in your network has skills or interests that complement your needs? Brainstorm ways to engage individuals, organizations or businesses as volunteers to help.

Encourage staff to attend physical education for their own workout! This supports staff as role models for students and helps create a healthy school culture.

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