Physical Activity Print or save as PDF

How is it defined?

Physical fitness is related to the ability to perform physical activity, which is defined as any movement of the body that results in energy being expended (Caspersen et al., 1985). Current physical activity guidelines advise for children and adolescents to accumulate a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day (Tremblay et al., 2016). Physical activity is necessary for healthy growth and development in childhood, and is linked to cognitive functioning and academic achievement (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011). Moreover, habitual physical activity during the school years tracks into adulthood, making childhood physical activity practices essential to maintaining one’s long-term health (Craigie et al., 2011).

The Learning Bar’s framework on Physical Health Outcomes includes measures of nutrition, physical fitness, sleep, risky behaviours (use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs), and sexual health. Physical fitness measures student involvement in physical activity.

Why is it important?

  • The majority of young people fail to meet the recommended 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth (Tapia-Serrano et al., 2022).

  • Schools can provide additional opportunities that expose students to a variety of physical activities and movement skills before, during and after school (Hills et al., 2015).

  • Educators can bolster student achievement through introducing regular physical activity breaks in the classroom (Ahamed et al., 2007).

How do we measure it?

In the OurSCHOOL elementary school survey, students are asked how often they engage in one hour or more each day doing physical activity. The results are reported as “the percentage of students who are engaging in physical activity every day or almost every day.” In the OurSCHOOL secondary school survey, students are asked how often they engage in moderate to intense physical activity. The results are reported as “the percentage of students who are engaging in moderate to intense physical activity every day or almost every day.”



Ahamed, Y., MacDonald, H., Reed, K., Naylor, P. J., Liu-Ambrose, T., & McKay, H. (2007). School-based physical activity does not compromise children's academic performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(2), 371-376.

Caspersen, C. J., Powell, K. E., & Christenson, G. M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: Definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Reports, 100(2), 126-131.

Craigie, A. M., Lake, A. A., Kelly, S. A., Adamson, A. J., & Mathers, J. C. (2011). Tracking of obesity-related behaviours from childhood to adulthood: A systematic review. Maturitas, 70(3), 266-284.

Fedewa, A. L., & Ahn, S. (2011). The effects of physical activity and physical fitness on children's achievement and cognitive outcomes: A meta-analysis. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82(3), 521-535.

Hills, A. P., Dengel, D. R., & Lubans, D. R. (2015). Supporting public health priorities: Recommendations for physical education and physical activity promotion in schools. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 57(4), 368-374.

Tapia-Serrano, M. A., Sevil-Serrano, J., Sánchez-Miguel, P. A., López-Gil, J. F., Tremblay, M. S., & García-Hermoso, A. (2022). Prevalence of meeting 24-Hour Movement Guidelines from pre-school to adolescence: A systematic review and meta-analysis including 387,437 participants and 23 countries. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 11, 427-437.

Tremblay, M. S., Carson, V., Chaput, J. P., Connor Gorber, S., Dinh, T., Duggan, M., Faulkner, G., Gray, C. E., Gruber, R., Janson, K., Janssen, I., Katzmarzyk, P. T., Kho, M. E., Latimer-Cheung, A. E., LeBlanc, C., Okely, A. D., Olds, T., Pate, R. R., Andrea, P.,…Zehr, L. (2016). Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth: An integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 41(6 Suppl. 3), S311-S327.