Strategy Profile: Active Physical Education (Active PE)

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The information in this resource is intended only to provide educational information. This profile describes the estimated benefits, activities, resources, and leadership needed to implement a strategy to improve child health. This information can be useful for planning and prioritization purposes.

  • Active PE is a policy requiring provision of 50% moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in physical education classes for grades K-8. Physical education teachers are trained to promote physical activity during PE classes using the SPARK or CATCH curricula.

What population benefits?

Children in grades K-8 (5-14 years old).

What are the estimated benefits?

Relative to not implementing the strategy
Increase students’ moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels and, in turn, promote healthy child weight.

What activities and resources are needed?

Activities Resources Who Leads?
Oversee training and implementation of Active PE in schools • Time for state PE coordinator to oversee implementation and training State PE coordinator
Monitor compliance with moderate-to-vigorous physical activity policy • Time for state PE coordinator to monitor compliance with policy State PE coordinator
Train PE teachers through state trainings • Time for SPARK/CATCH training consultant to lead trainings
• Time for PE teachers to attend trainings
• Travel costs for PE teachers and SPARK/CATCH training consultants to attend trainings
SPARK/CATCH training consultant
Purchase PE equipment and curricula • PE equipment costs
• SPARK or CATCH curricula costs
Train principals in assessing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in PE classes at a state principals association event • Time for training consultant to lead trainings
• Incremental time increase for principals to attend trainings on evaluating PE
• Travel costs for training consultants
Training consultant
Strategy Modification

State and local health agencies modified this strategy in the following ways. 1) Some health agencies modified this strategy to be a best practice or implementation guideline instead of a policy. With this modification, the strategy would cost less because activities to monitor compliance, including training principals, would not occur. Additionally, a percentage – instead of all PE teachers – might be trained using this modification, which would mean reaching fewer children. 2) Some health agencies modified this strategy to use a train-the-trainer model. This modifies the training model so that the training consultants train school district master trainers and the master trainers lead trainings for the PE teachers. Modifying the strategy this way could cost less.

Cradock AL, Barrett JL, Kenney EL, Giles CM, Ward ZJ, Long MW, Resch SC, Pipito AA, Wei ER, Gortmaker SL. Using cost-effectiveness analysis to prioritize policy and programmatic approaches to physical activity promotion and obesity prevention in childhood [supplemental appendix]. Preventive Medicine. 2017 Feb;95 Suppl: S17-S27. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.10.017. Available at: s2.0-S0091743516303395-mmc1.docx

Selected CHOICES research brief including cost-effectiveness metrics:
Hopkins H, Lange J, Olson E, Taylor-Watts S, Jenkins L, McCulloch S, Barrett J, Reiner J, and Cradock AL. Iowa: Active Physical Education (PE) {Issue Brief}. Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Education, Des Moines, IA, and the CHOICES Learning Collaborative Partnership at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA; April 2021. Available at:

  • Access the SPARK PE curriculum here.
  • Access the CATCH PE curriculum here.

Explore and compare this strategy with other strategies on the CHOICES Childhood Obesity National Action Kit here.

Suggested Citation

CHOICES Strategy Profile: Active Physical Education (Active PE). CHOICES Project Team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA; April 2022.


This work is supported by The JPB Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U48DP006376). The information provided here is intended to be used for educational purposes. Links to other resources and websites are intended to provide additional information aligned with this educational purpose. The findings and conclusions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other funders.

Adapted from the TIDieR (Template for Intervention Description and Replication) Checklist

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