Physically active lessons as physical activity and educational interventions: a systematic review of methods and results

Prev Med. 2015 Mar:72:116-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.12.027. Epub 2015 Jan 3.


Objective: Physically active lessons aim to increase children's physical activity whilst maintaining academic time. This systematic review aimed to investigate the methods used in such interventions and their effects on physical activity and educational outcomes.

Methods: In March 2014; PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO and ERIC electronic databases were searched. Inclusion criteria were: 1. Classroom lessons containing both PA and educational elements; 2. intervention studies featuring a control group or within-subjects baseline measurement period; 3. any age-group; and 4. English language. Studies assessing physically active lessons within complex interventions were excluded. Data were extracted onto a standardised form. Risk of bias was assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP) tool.

Results: Eleven studies were identified: five examined physical activity outcomes only, three examined educational outcomes only and three examined both physical activity and educational outcomes. All studies found improved physical activity following physically active lessons: either in the whole intervention group or in specific demographics. Educational outcomes either significantly improved or were no different compared to inactive teaching. Studies ranged from low to high risk of bias.

Conclusions: Encouraging evidence of improved physical activity and educational outcomes following physically active lessons is provided. However, too few studies exist to draw firm conclusions. Future high-quality studies with longer intervention periods are warranted.

Keywords: Academic achievement; Children; Elementary; Learning; Movement; Physical activity; Physically active lessons; School.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • School Health Services*