Comprehensive School Physical Activity Approach

Obesity levels in the United States are at an all-time high. According to national surveillance data, approximately one-third of American adults and 17% of youth aged 2-19 are obese (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2012). Recently, schools have been identified as focal points for obesity prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2008; Institute of Medicine, 2012, 2013). In particular, physical education teachers have been called upon to take a broadened role in physical activity and health promotion in schools (Active Living Research [ALR], 2011; American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006; Basch, 2011). Instead of focusing solely on what goes on in the gymnasium, physical education teachers are now being asked to assume the role of a Physical Activity Leader (PAL) or Director of Physical Activity (DPA) on school campuses (Beighle, Erwin, Castelli, & Ernst, 2009; Carson, 2012; Castelli & Beighle, 2007).

 

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Teachers' New Roles

Teachers are being asked to develop and facilitate comprehensive school physical activity programs (CSPAP) that include opportunities for physical activity before/after school, physical activity during the school day, staff involvement, and family/community engagement. The programs are intended to help children accumulate the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day and are directly connected with the Let’s Move Active Schools initiative aimed at reversing childhood obesity nationwide.

Unfortunately, a recent survey investigating the status of physical activity programs in schools indicated that less than 16% of elementary schools, 13% of middle schools, and 6% of high schools are implementing all of the components of a CSPAP (AAHPERD, 2011). One reason for this deficit is that teacher preparation programs have been relatively slow to respond in equipping graduates with the knowledge and skills to deliver such programs (Beighle et al., 2009; McKenzie & Lounsberry, 2013; Metzler et al., 2013). The M.A.T. in Physical Education and Physical Activity Leadership program at the University of Northern Colorado is designed to address this need by preparing, supporting, and mentoring school champions to effectively implement prolonged CSPAP efforts in and around schools.