Physical Activity Best Practices
More than one in 10 Colorado children is obese. Lack of physical activity is a leading cause of obesity; a poor diet is another. Obese children are at a higher risk for asthma and diabetes as well as depression and low self-esteem. Lack of energy, poor self-image and health complications make it a lot harder to concentrate in school and can lead to behavior issues. Physical activity can stimulate the mind and enhance brain function.
- We meet the HB11-1069 requirements by offering 150 minutes of physical activity weekly or 30 minutes of physical activity a day for all elementary students.
|School schedule||Minimum minute requirement for full day students||Minimum minute requirement for half day students|
Schools that meet 5 days per week
600 minutes per month
300 minutes per month
|Schools that meet fewer than 5 days|
30 minutes per day
15 minutes per day
- We offer 150 minutes of physical education weekly or 30 minutes a day at the elementary school level, and 225 minutes weekly or 45 minutes a day at the middle school and high school levels. Our physical education curriculum is sequential and consistent with the Colorado Comprehensive Health Education and Physical Education Content Standards.
- We avoid substitutions for physical education such as marching band or ROTC.
- Our physical education teachers are licensed and have received professional development in their field during the past two years.
- We offer our elementary students recess before lunch.
- We avoid taking recess away as punishment.
- We offer structured recess.
- We partner with organizations that offer after-school programs promoting physical activity.
We offer professional development and provide resources to our staff to be able to integrate physical activity breaks into the daily classroom.
View our webinar on Move More, Learn More: Physical Activity at the Secondary Level.
“For us, it comes down to students’ health and well-being. We know the disturbing statistics about childhood obesity, and we want to give our kids the tools they need to make good decisions about their health.”
- Use the Colorado Comprehensive Health Education and Physical Education Standards to create a comprehensive school physical activity program that integrates physical activity throughout every school day — from creative classroom approaches for getting students moving during reading and math to an annual district-wide bike- or walk-to-school day event.
- Encourage physical education teachers to work with other teachers to integrate the core curriculum into their classes. For example, physical education teachers can ask students to use math skills by measuring their heart rates and graphing the data.
- Provide resources for core teachers to integrate physical activity into their everyday classroom; such as brain breaks, morning warm-ups, and scheduled school-wide physical activity breaks.
- Explore creative ways to offer physical activities that better reflect what’s new, current and of interest to students. Involve your community.
- Provide opportunities for a structured recess program to ensure all students are being active on the playground.
- Engage the community to gain deeper insights into its values about the relationship between physical activity and student learning.
- Develop a board policy to provide more opportunities for students to engage in physical activities that further enhance student learning and wellness.
- Build awareness among constituents about the relevance of physical activity to student achievement.
- Voice your opinion, volunteer and offer to work with peers and teachers to plan, create and lead 1-2 minute physical activity breaks in the classroom every day in every class.
- Help teachers to understand why physical activity breaks are important. Have teachers list breaks in their class agenda on the board.
- Ask for physical activity and advocate for teachers to treat every day like assessment week.
- Create physical activity challenges for class competitions during spirit weeks.
- Promote community awareness and create social media groups to organize physical activity events in your community.
- Positively reach out to all students, especially those whom may not be involved in athletics.
- Set clear expectations and always be welcoming and never condescending toward the performance of others.
- Start and/or join physical activity opportunities before, during and after school.
- Structure time that students stand around and start a game, activity, walking club, etc.
- Serve as role models to children by living active, healthy lives. Engage in physical activities with your child at least three times a week.
- Advocate at school board meetings for increasing physical activity in school curriculum. Underscore the link to student achievement.
- Seek out community organizations that can provide after-school activities such as weight-lifting, aerobics, Taekwondo, yoga and sports.
- Become a leader or a supporter of increased physical activity in your school district.
- Participate in conversations led by administrators and school board members about how to increase access to physical activity for students, staff and the community. Help identify community issues, priorities and values.
- Develop partnerships with your district to provide additional resources, programs and events focused on physical activities. Promote after-school activities such as sports or exercise classes.
La Veta school district is located in southern Colorado just off of US 160 at the base of the spectacular Spanish Peaks. This rural district has an elementary school, a junior-senior high school, and a total of approximately 230 students. The school started its physical activity “renovation” a few years ago as a forward thinking teacher asked to use yoga balls instead of traditional classroom chairs. The students sat on the yoga balls, and more ideas started rolling from there.
“Play Spaces” are integrated into the school day in all classrooms, during recess and lunch breaks. In addition, physical education classes for 30 minutes every day, or every other day depending on the class level, round out the physical activity opportunities that are plentiful. Timing of lunch recess is part of the plan; older students have recess before lunch, which results in students eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more milk, wasting less food, and showing better behavior. The district understands that healthy staff is also important to overall school wellness and offers a staff wellness program with Zumba and group exercise classes. The Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center, a local hospital, offers health screenings for staff once a year, one of several successful community collaborations in the district. The district is working with The Colorado Health Foundation on a playground renovation and a local Park & Recreation District to obtain additional funding for the playground improvements.
There are opportunities for physical activity outside of the school day as well. The 21st Century After School Program for 6th to 12th grade students includes Zumba, rock climbing, volleyball conditioning and more. Because the district participates in youth sports programs in neighboring communities and recreation districts, the school facilities are used for games and practices. With funding from the Colorado Legacy Foundation, the district was able to introduce the SPARK curriculum that is designed to create, implement, and evaluate programs that promote lifelong wellness. La veta was also able to hire a staff position to facilitate activity during lunch recesses and to train instructional staff on the techniques and attributes of “Brain Gym” and facilitating movement throughout the school day in all classrooms.
Overall, the La veta School District is on a roll, and excited that it is seeing more active kids and staff, better behavior, and increased attendance.
As a new public school in the St. vrain valley School District outside of Denver, Red Hawk built physical activity into the plan from day one. This elementary school is located in Erie, Colorado, about halfway between Broomfield and Longmont. The school of approximately 564 students is committed to helping each and every one to reach his/her academic potential and become a contributing member of the school community. While “red” is in its name, this very “green” school was recently built with an eye to energy efficiency, sustainability, and health.
Using a rotating daily “movement calendar,” students gain 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis, in addition to scheduled PE class and recess. According to principal Cyrus Weinberger, “This is a systematic program that’s built into the schedule—it’s built in to the culture of the school so that at critical moments throughout the day, we interject rigorous physical activity right before our hardest academic activities.” Mr. Weinberger uses free physical activity resources and asks for parent volunteers. “This can be replicated in any school,” he states.
The in-class movement sessions take place in 20-minute blocks, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon immediately before the most challenging academic subjects, like math and science. Other physical activities include the “Red Hawk Walk,” where students power-walk along designated routes throughout the building, as well as in-class cardio and dance breaks. Each Friday, the week ends with “All-School Movement,” as all 564 students, faculty and staff head outside to participate in a coordinated fitness routine set to popular music. The school was nationally recognized by the Active School Acceleration Project (ASAP) Innovation Competition where it was awarded $100,000 for its movement program. So why would Red Hawk work so hard at integrating physical activity into the school schedule? Researchers such as Dr. John Ratey have shown that physical fitness is intricately tied to academic success. At Red Hawk, Mr. Weinberger states that he and his staff have noticed more focused and engaged students and less behavioral issues, “At the cost of giving up some time, the quality of learning and the students’ ability to focus and retain information is dramatic.”
A recent survey showed that 95% of students in grades three to five look forward to coming to and have fun at school, while 98% of parents feel welcomed and 99% are satisfied with their child’s education.(Note—survey data is based on the 160 families that responded). Red Hawk Elementary is clearly sharing a message about the connection between academic achievement, physical activity, health and wellness. They understand that working collaboratively with school administration, parents, and staff successfully promotes movement of both bodies and minds.
There’s a wealth of resources available to get you started. Among the most relevant to physical activity.
Find resources that enable schools to increase student opportunities to exercise and eat healthier foods. This website also provides resources for teachers and staff to become healthy role models.
Find research on the link between healthy students and positive academic outcomes.
Colorado Action for Healthy Kids — Parents are the Power! Tool Kit (English and Spanish)
Check out this tool kit that parents can use to create healthier environments for their children in Colorado schools.
See state content standards that provide intentional opportunities to integrate and differentiate physical education concepts and skills.
Find tons of resources for physical activity breaks, games and ideas.
Learn more about the Let’s Move! campaign started by First Lady Michelle Obama. Its goal is to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.
Find resources on healthy eating and active living, including a resource on not taking recess away as punishment.
Check out this resource for alternatives to using recess as a punishment.
Take a Break by adding 1-5 minutes physical activity breaks for students in the 6th through 12th grades. This resource has over 100secondary appropriate and easy to integrate activities; including a lesson plan template for your students to create their own activities.
Visit this website for information on how to create and evaluate programs that promote physical activity and lifelong wellness for students and staff.