Promoting physical activity among children and adolescents: the strengths and limitations of school-based approaches
Paediatric overweight and obesity is recognised as one of Australia's most significant health problems and effective approaches to increasing physical activity and reducing energy consumption are being sought urgently. Every potential approach and setting should be subjected to critical review in an attempt to maximise the impact of policy and program initiatives. This paper identifies the strengths and limitations of schools as a setting for promoting physical activity. The strengths are: most children and adolescents attend school; most young people are likely to see teachers as credible sources of information; schools provide access to the facilities, infrastructure and support required for physical activity; and schools are the workplace of skilled educators. Potential limitations are: those students who like school the least are the most likely to engage in health-compromising behaviours and the least likely to be influenced by school-based programs; there are about 20 more hours per week available for physical activity outside schools hours than during school hours; enormous demands are already being made on schools; many primary school teachers have low levels of perceived competence in teaching physical education and fundamental movement skills; and opportunities for being active at school may not be consistent with how and when students prefer to be active.