Examining the impact of school physical activity related policies and interventions on student physical activity levels, sedentary behaviours and body weight outcomes.


In the past several years, schools have emerged as an important location for addressing childhood obesity given the large number of young people who regularly access this setting. There is also growing awareness that school policies and environmental interventions have the potential to promote healthy physical activity (PA) habits in schools (1, 2). This brief summarizes the impact of school PA-related policies and interventions on student PA levels, sedentary behaviours, and body weight outcomes. 

Key Findings

  • School PA-related policies and interventions may be effective in increasing student PA levels, though additional research and evaluation is required, particularly at the public policy level (3, 7).
  • Evidence of the impact of school physical activity related policies and interventions is limited for sedentary behaviours, and mixed for BMI and weight outcomes (4, 5, 8, 9).
  • Broad, multi-component interventions may hold the most promise for promoting healthy weights (3-6).

Explore Policies Related to Obesity Prevention

CPAC’s Prevention Policies Directory

The Directory is a freely-accessible online database of policies relating to cancer and chronic disease prevention, many of which address obesity prevention. It allows users to search by risk factor, jurisdiction, geographical location, and document type and provides summaries and direct access to policy documents. 

Click here to find policies related to school physical activity policies in the Prevention Policies Directory.


  1. Lagarde F, LeBlanc CM. Policy options to support physical activity in schools. Canadian Journal of Public Health/Revue Canadienne de Sante’e Publique. 2010:S9-S13.
  2. Taylor JP, McKenna ML, Butler GP. Monitoring and evaluating school nutrition and physical activity policies. Canadian Journal of Public Health/Revue Canadienne de Sante’e Publique. 2010:S24-S7.
  3. Dobbins M, DeCorby K, Robeson P, Husson H, Tirilis D. School‐based physical activity programs for promoting physical activity and fitness in children and adolescents aged 6‐18. The Cochrane Library. 2009.
  4. Harris KC, Kuramoto LK, Schulzer M, Retallack JE. Effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index in children: A meta-analysis. [References]. Canadian Medical Association Journal. [Journal Peer Reviewed Journal]. 2009;180(7):719-26.
  5. Williams AJ, Henley WE, Williams CA, Hurst AJ, Logan S, Wyatt KM. Systematic review and metaanalysis of the association between childhood overweight and obesity and primary school diet and physical activity policies. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity. 2013;10:101.
  6. Verstraeten R, Roberfroid D, Lachat C, Leroy JL, Holdsworth M, Maes L, et al. Effectiveness of preventive school-based obesity interventions in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. [Review]. 2012 Aug;96(2):415-38.
  7. Beets MW, Beighle A, Erwin HE, Huberty JL. After-school program impact on physical activity and fitness: a meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2009 Jun;36(6):527-37
  8. Hoehner CM, Soares J, Parra Perez D, Ribeiro IC, Joshu CE, Pratt M, et al. Physical activity interventions in Latin America: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med. 2008 Mar;34(3):224-33
  9. Chriqui JF. Obesity Prevention Policies in U.S. States and Localities: Lessons from the Field. Curr Obes Rep. 2013 Sep;2(3):200-10.