Encourage Physical Fitness & Outdoor Time

The average American child spends 44 hours per week (more than 6 hours a day) staring at an electronic screen. Research shows that children are spending half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago. Young people between the ages of 10 to 16 engage in vigorous activity, on average, for only 12.6 minutes per day — nowhere near the 60 minutes that the Surgeon General recommends. Obesity among children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years and the rate of clinically obese adolescents (aged 12-19) has more than tripled.

With even minor changes to a student’s daily routine, these statistics could be shifted into reverse. Even just one hour a day of moderate physical activity can have a significant positive impact on children’s physical, mental and emotional health.  In addition to boosting physical health, activity and exposure to natural settings has been found to be effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children. Test scores have been shown to be better in schools that offer environment-based programs compared to schools without such programs and opportunities for free play support children’s emotional and social development.  Learn about ways to incorporate physical activity and outdoor time into the school day below. (Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health and sustainability of your school!)

Before You Start

Form an Action Team

Review Physical Activity Guidelines Ages Birth-Age 12

Design and Preparation

Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

Conduct a Healthy Living: Outdoor Activity Audit

Conduct a Healthy Living: Recess Audit

Conduct a Healthy Living: Physical Education Audit


Healthy Living Action Plan Sample Action Plan

Healthy Living Action Plan Blank Action Plan

  • 10 Ideas for Getting Students Active Inside & Outside
  • 5 Tips to Make Recess a Part of Every Student's School Day
  • Include goals for physical activity in your School Wellness Policy
  • Physical Literacy U.S. (PLUS) Programs
  • Jump Ropes for Heart & Hoops for Heart Programs
  • Implement the Presidential Youth Fitness Program
  • NFL Play 60 Challenge Program & Curriculum
  • Tools to Incorporate Activity into the School Day
  • Funding Opportunities for Physical Fitness & Outdoor Time
  • Also See: Outdoor Learning & Discovery Projects
  • Also See: Programs to Encourage Active Transportation
  • Using Your Project

    Physical Literacy U.S. Curriculum (PreK-Middle)

    Shape America Curriculum K-12 & Professional Development

    Health & Physical Education Teacher's Toolbox

    Presidential Youth Fitness Program Teacher Tools & Resources

    Eco School Healthy Living Pathway Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    EPA MyEnvironment: Search Tool of Environmental Data by Zipcode

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)