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Physical Activity Policies and Legislation in Schools

A Systematic Review

      Context

      Current physical activity levels of youth are alarmingly low. One way to promote higher levels of physical activity to youth is through school-based government policies. The current review examines evaluation of school-based physical activity policies for youth over the past 10 years.

      Evidence acquisition

      Articles included met the following criteria: was an original research study published in an academic journal in English; examined or was related to physical activity behavior; applied to a youth population in a school setting; highlighted a law, bill, or policy reflective of physical activity based on government initiatives; and involved an evaluation. After searching five databases in January 2011, a total of 13 articles were selected for inclusion.

      Evidence synthesis

      All policies came from the U.S.; seven studies highlighted the federal Child Nutrition and Women, Infants, and Children Reauthorization Act of 2004 whereas the other six studies highlighted state-level policies dealing with safe routes to schools, physical activity–only initiatives, or physical activity as well as other initiatives. Eight articles evaluated policy implementation, three examined policy implementation and impact, and two articles considered only policy impact.

      Conclusions

      This evaluation of the impact of policies on school-based physical activity indicates that such policies can affect health outcomes, specifically by increasing levels of physical activity. This study highlights the value of policy reform and calls attention to the need for independent evaluation of such policies.
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