The Contribution of Physical Education to Physical Activity Within a Comprehensive School Health Promotion Program

Gabriella M. McLoughlin, Kim C. Graber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Little is known about the role of physical education (PE) in a school health promotion model, particularly where wellness is placed at the forefront. The purpose of this study was to understand how PE contributes to the overall amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) that children receive in a school recognized for health promotion. Methods: As part of an in-depth case study, participants in grades 4–8 (N = 105) wore ActiGraph wGT3X+ accelerometers over 7 days to assess activity levels. Data were scored using ActiLife software. Using SPSS statistics software, students were grouped into low, moderate, and high activity through calculating tertile splits of average daily MVPA. Two 2 × 2 ANCOVA (sex x activity level) tests were conducted to determine the ratio of MVPA in PE to school and daily MVPA, controlling for age. Results: Participants accrued 8 min MVPA on average during PE with differences among low (6.4 ± 2.5), moderate (8.3 ± 3.7), and highly active participants (10.1 ± 4.0). ANCOVA analyses revealed non-significant interactions between sex and activity level explaining variance in contribution of PE to school MVPA (F(2, 99) = .235, p = .791, partial ŋ= .005) and daily MVPA (F(2, 99) = .299, p =.742, partial ŋ= .006), but significant main effects between high and low activity for daily MVPA were observed F(2, 99) = 5.118 p = .008, partial ŋ= .094. Conclusions: PE remains a priority in supporting children’s PA, particularly for those least active. Despite relatively low levels of MVPA, findings provide rationale for policy change supporting more frequent PE in schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-679
Number of pages11
JournalResearch Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Health behavior
  • PE
  • physical activity
  • school health promotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Nephrology


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