Background: Physical education (PE) has the potential of stimulating physical activity (PA) in children and adolescents in a direct and an indirect manner. By providing in-class activity, PE could directly contribute to the accumulation of physical activity. In addition, it is often claimed that PE could have an effect on physical activity by stimulating out-of-class activity, or even physical activity in adult life.
Methods: We reviewed intervention studies using a PE component that directly or indirectly aimed to increase physical activity in primary and secondary school students. An electronic literature search was conducted and articles' reference lists were scanned for additional papers.
Results: Fourteen studies matched our criteria. A review of these studies showed that interventions are able to directly increase activity in PE classes with relatively simple modifications, whereas the evidence for increasing out-of-class PA through interventions utilizing PE as a component is less convincing.
Conclusions: We propose that evidence-based interventions aimed at increasing PA in children and adolescents through PE should at this moment be aimed at the direct effect of PE. There is a need for high quality PE-based interventions directed at out-of-class activity and long-term active life style.