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Survey Says? We’re Not Prioritizing Our Kids’ Physical Health

Learn how Active Schools can help you speak up about physical activity in schools.


As parents, we expect a lot from our kid’s school. We send them out each morning with the hope and expectation that they’ll be challenged academically, cared for socially, nurtured emotionally and encouraged physically. 

What I’ve noticed as a parent, and as a former physical education teacher, is that when competing priorities come into play, it is often the physical aspect of education that gets deprioritized. 

Why is that? 

After all, there are numerous studies that demonstrate the link between physical activity and improved brain function. Physical activity and play are essential elements for child development, overall health and a well-rounded education. 

Recently, we worked with NORC at the University of Chicago to survey thousands of parents and principals from around the country, ranging from elementary school to high school and from rural to urban areas. We asked about their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors regarding physical activity and physical education in their child’s school.

Read The Movement Disparity: Parent and Principal Perspectives on Physical Activity in Schools

What we found was that while nearly everyone agrees on the importance of physical activity in school, few are actively making it a priority. 

The disparities between beliefs and behaviors were significant:

  • 81% of parents and 93% of principals believe that children and adolescents who are physically active are better learners.
  • 83% of principals believe that schools should have the same responsibility for students’ physical, academic and social and emotional learning, but only half said their schools equally address all three.
  • 85% of parents said that it is important, very important or extremely important that their child’s school is an active school, yet only 39% reported communicating with their child’s principal about it.
  • Principals provided a different account regarding parent communication with only 12% reporting that parents communicated with them about student physical activity.

So why aren’t we talking more about the importance of movement in the overall development of our kids? I imagine all of us have attended parent-teacher conferences at some point, but do we take time to talk about the school’s physical activity programs with our child’s principal and physical education teacher? Or discuss incorporating physical activity into learning with their classroom teachers? 

Academics are the foundation of our schools, and social-emotional learning has taken center stage in recent years. We know that kids learn and develop through movement. How can we help our schools give physical learning the attention it deserves?

Well, we’re working on it. 

As champions for daily school-based physical activity, Active Schools aims to help educators inspire lifelong healthy habits, improve academic outcomes and ultimately revolutionize how schools incorporate activity into student learning every day.

We know parents and principals think physical activity is important, the surveys show that. Now, we challenge you to start the conversation. Educators - Think of ways to add physical activity to your school and talk with your colleagues about your ideas. Access our resources to start incorporating more movement into your curriculum. Parents - Get to know your child’s physical education teacher. Talk to your principal about prioritizing physical development. Heck, just ask your kid what they learned in physical education class today. 


Charlene Burgeson is the Executive Director of Active Schools.