Policies to Increase Physical Activity in Children and Youth

The purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) to identify the common existing international policies established to increase physical activity in children and adolescents; and (2) to examine the extent to which these policies are supported by solid scientific evidence.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging countries to develop and implement policies aimed at increasing physical activity in children and adolescents.
  • Existing policies as well as intervention studies for children and adolescents in Europe, America, Asia, and Oceania that were written in English and Chinese were identified via scientific databases, reference lists of articles, and existing archives and databases via non-electronic search. The policy areas found to be the most common were: (1) Physical Education in School; (2) Physical Activity-Related Health Education; (3) Community Environmental Support; (4) School Environmental Support; (5) Active Transport/Urban Design; and (6) Mass Media/Advertising Campaigns.
  • For these policy areas, the intervention literature was reviewed and segmented into three domains: policy research (studies examining the relationship of policies to physical activity levels in young people), effectiveness studies (multi-site physical activity interventions), and efficacy studies (single site or local physical activity interventions).
  • Effectiveness studies provided support for policies that focus on increasing Physical Education in School, improving School Environmental Support and Active Transport/Urban Design, and launching Mass Media/Advertising Campaigns designed to increase physical activity levels in children and adolescents.
  • The results for Physical Activity-Related Health Education and Community Environmental Support were mixed, indicating that more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of physical activity policies in those areas.

Pate, R. R., J. L. Trilk, et al. (2011). "Policies to Increase Physical Activity in Children and Youth." Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness 9(1): 1-14.

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