Make Current PE More Active

There have been a number of studies that aim to increase the amount of time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activities (MVPA), particularly during physical education time. The calculations here are based upon evidence from the following studies: the Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health (CATCH), the Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition (MSPAN) program, and the Trial for Activity for Adolescent Girls (TAAG). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends in Healthy People 2010 that students engage in MVPA at least 50 percent of their physical activity time per day. For many students, recommended levels of physical activity are achieved through school PE, so MVPA interventions target this specific approach.

* The Average Caloric Impact (ACI) for this intervention is empirical, based on published estimates of METs expended. Baseline Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) of non-MVPA are calculated with 1.8 METs, using an average of lying down, sitting, and standing based on the Ainsworth Compendium of METs values. The codes referenced, respectively, are 07011/07011, 09065, and 02101. The MVPA value of 4.5 METs is based upon the average of moderate physical activity (3 METs) and vigorous physical activity (6 METs), as used in Wu et al. (2001). Nader et al. (2003) is used as the basis for the baseline 37 percent of MVPA


The Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health was a multicenter, randomized trial to test the effectiveness of a cardiovascular health promotion program in 96 public schools in 4 states. One major component of the program was a health-related physical education (PE) program. MVPA during lessons in intervention schools increased from 37.4% at baseline to 51.9%. Please reference McKenzie et al. (1996) below.

Subsequent studies have also been conducted on the basis of the original CATCH intervention. A pilot study of an after-school adaptation of the program, called the CATCH Kids Club (CKC), is a physical activity (PA) and nutrition education program for grades K-5 in an after-school setting. The three programmatic components are: (1) a 5-module education component, (2) a physical activity component, and (3) a snack component. The most important finding from the pilot study is the increase in proportion of time on the playground engaged in MVPA. In the intervention schools, children exceeded the Healthy People 2010 recommendation of 50% MVPA for physical education classes, reaching 56.84% (from a baseline pre-test of 29.46% MVPA). Please reference Kelder et al. (n.d.) below.


The Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition grant was funded to expand on the success of Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) in elementary schools. Implemented in middle schools, the MSPAN intervention tested a combination of environmental, policy, and social marketing interventions on increasing physical activity and reducing fat intake of students. The study was funded for 5 years, from 1996 to 2000. The greatest gains from the intervention came from the physical education portion, with the goals to (1) create teacher awareness of the need for active, health-related PE; (2) assist teachers in designing and implementing active PE curricula; (3) develop teachers' class management and instructional skills to enhance physical activity and student learning; and (4) provide ongoing support for change. The study found a significant change in physical activity for boys, but not girls.


A National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)-sponsored multi-center group-randomized study, TAAG developed, implemented, and evaluated an intervention that linked schools to community organizations in an effort to address the decline in MVPA for middle school girls. The study aimed to increased MET-weighted minutes of MVPA, examine the impact of the intervention on percent body fat, and examine the differences in delivery of physical education classes and after-school physical activity programs at the school and community levels. Middle school, English-speaking girls from six public schools in six geographic regions were selected to participate in the study. Schools with greater racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity were given preference.

The researchers followed 6th grade girls for 2 years. The group was found to have 2.2 more MET-weight minutes than girls who did not receive the intervention. From the NICHD study across 10 U.S. sites, it was found that the average METs expenditure at PE was approximately 3.4.

Studies Used in Estimates from CATCH

Kelder S, Hoelscher DM, Barroso CS, Walker JL, Cribb P, Hu S. The CATCH Kids Club: A Pilot After-School Study for Improving Elementary Students' Nutrition and Physical Activity. Public Health Nutrition 2005 Apr; 8(2):133-140.

McKenzie TL, Nader PR, Strikmiller PK, Yang M, Stone EJ, Perry CL, Taylor WC, Epping JN, Feldman HA, Luepker RV, Kelder SH. School Physical Education: Effect of the Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health. Preventive Medicine 1996 Jul-Aug; 25(4):423-431.

Nader PR, The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development Network. Frequency and Intensity of Activity of Third-Grade Children in Physical Activity. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2003 Feb; 157:185-190.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Strategies to Improve the Quality of Physical Education. July 2010.

Wu S, Cohen D, Shi Y, Pearson M, Sturm R. Economic Analysis of Physical Activity Interventions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011 Feb; 40(2):149-158.

Studies Used in Estimates from MSPAN

McKenzie TL, Sallis JF, Prochaska JJ, Conway TL, Marshall SJ, Rosengard P. Evaluation of a Two-Year Middle-School Physical Education Intervention: M-SPAN. Medicine Science and Sports Exercise 2004; 36(8):1382-1388.

Studies Used in Estimates from TAAG

Baggett CD, Stevens J, Catellier DJ, Evenson KR, McMurray RG, He K, Treuth MS. Compensation or Displacement of Physical Activity in Middle-School Girls: the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls. International Journal of Obesity 2010 Jul; 34(7):1193-1199.

Elder JP, Shuler L, Moe SG, Grieser M, Pratt C, Cameron S, Hingle M, Pickrel JL, Saksvig BI, Schachter K, Greer S, Bothwell EKG. Recruiting a Diverse Group of Middle School Girls Into the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls. Journal of School Health 2008 Oct; 78(10):523-531.

Gittelsohn J, Steckler A, Johnson, CC, Pratt C, Grieser M, Pickrel J, Stone EJ, Conway T, Coombs D, Staten LK. Formative Research in School and Community-Based Health Programs and Studies: "State of the Art" and the TAAG Approach. Health Education & Behavior 2006 Feb; 33(1)-25-39.

Stevens J, Murray DM, Catellier DJ, Hannan PJ, Lytele LA, Elder JP, Young DR, Simons-Morton DG, Webber LS. Design of the Trial of Activity in Adolescent Girls (TAAG). Contemporary Clinical Trials 2005 Apr; 26(2):223-233.

Webber LS, Catellier DJ, Lytle LA, Murray DM, Pratt CA, Young DR, Elder JP, Lohman TG, Stevens J, Jobe JB, Pate RR. Promoting Physical Activity in Middle School Girls: Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2008 Mar; 34(3):173-184.

Young DR, Johnson CC, Steckler A, Gittelsohn J, Saunders RP, Saksvig BI, Ribisl DM, Lytle LA, McKenzie TL. Data to Action: Using Formative Research to Develop Intervention Programs to Increase Physical Activity in Adolescent Girls. Health Education & Behavior 2006 Feb; 33(1):97-111.

Other References

Below are a list of studies that also aim to increase MVPA. These are for reference only, and were not used to extract inputs for the Caloric Calculator.

Jago R, McMurray RG, Bassin S, Pyle L, Bruecker S, Jakicic JM, Moe E, Murry R, Volpe SL.. Modifying Middle School Physical Education: Piloting Strategies to Increase Physical Activity. Pediatric Exercise Science 2009 May; 21(2):171-185.