The effects of a 2-year physical education program (SPARK) on physical activity and fitness in elementary school students. Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids

Am J Public Health. 1997 Aug;87(8):1328-34. doi: 10.2105/ajph.87.8.1328.


Objectives: This study evaluated a health-related physical education program for fourth- and fifth-grade students designed to increase physical activity during physical education classes and outside of school.

Methods: Seven schools were assigned to three conditions in a quasi-experimental design. Health-related physical education was taught by physical education specialists or trained classroom teachers. Students from these classes were compared with those in control classes. Analyses were conducted on 955 students with complete data.

Results: Students spent more minutes per week being physically active in specialist-led (40 min) and teacher-led (33 min) physical education classes than in control classes (18 min; P < .001). After 2 years, girls in the specialist-led condition were superior to girls in the control condition on abdominal strength and endurance (P < .001) and cardiorespiratory endurance (P < .001). There were no effects on physical activity outside of school.

Conclusions: A health-related physical education curriculum can provide students with substantially more physical activity during physical education classes. Improved physical education classes can potentially benefit 97% of elementary school students.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Physical Education and Training / methods
  • Physical Education and Training / organization & administration*
  • Physical Education and Training / statistics & numerical data
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Program Evaluation / methods
  • Program Evaluation / statistics & numerical data
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Time Factors