Health topic: Physical Activity Health Promotion

Move more, sit less

What’s it about?

This strategy limits periods of sedentary time at school (like sitting down or waiting in line) and replaces it with opportunities that get students moving, including:

  • Light physical activity, like standing, walking, or stretching
  • Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, like aerobic dance, running games, and jumping rope
  • Trading indoor time for outdoor time (where students tend to get active naturally)

Move more, sit less is a natural extension to physical education, but it's much more than that. It prioritizes everyday school experiences that are physically active, and taps into what many educators know to be true: movement-based teaching and learning is purposeful, engaging, and fun. 

This strategy supports Daily Physical Activity (DPA) and aligns with national guidelines to help children and youth balance the amount they sit, step, sweat, and sleep in a 24-hour day.


What’s involved?

You'll need flexibility and creativity to help students move more and sit less during the COVID-19 pandemic. Try these ideas in your classroom cohort, and ensure other health measures, like mask-wearing, physical distancing, and frequent hand-washing.


Go cross-curricular

Combine physical activity with academic content across subject areas to create active learning opportunities. Embed movement that’s relevant to the learning task at hand, or simply get students moving during curriculum-based instruction. Here are some examples:

  • Have students move around the classroom as they discuss, share, or reflect on a problem.
  • Use rhythm or dance to help students learn patterns or practice vocabulary or spelling.
  • Have students jump, lunge, or stretch to indicate if an answer is true or false.
  • Try an active game or sport to learn about Indigenous culture or civilizations of the world.
  • Get students moving as they explore scientific concepts like speed, friction, and aerodynamics.
  • Take learning outdoors—to natural areas, local parks, community gardens, trails and the like. Active experiences in the natural environment go hand-in-hand with science and social studies.


Create physical activity bursts 

Plan short bouts or bursts of physical activity for when students’ energy or attention levels drop. They help to break up sedentary time, and may help students focus when seated instruction continues.

Physical activity bursts should be simple, quick, and doable in the space available, like beside a desk or table. They’re sometimes referred to as movement breaks, energizers, or body breaks, and may involve:

  • Fitness movements (like jumps, lunges, squats, or running on the spot)
  • Stretches or yoga poses
  • Music-based activities like dancing, rhythm, or creative movement activities
  • Quick games like Simon Says or Follow the Leader

With a little creativity and practice, physical activity bursts can be a routine part of life at school—try them as part of daily announcements, assemblies, or special events. They’re also a natural fit for transitions, like moving between classrooms.

This list of 20+ energizers from APPLE Schools is a great way to get started.

Get active by design

Simple tweaks to the design of your classroom or school environment may entice students to sweat, step, or stand more—sometimes without even realizing it!

  • Changing the physical space can limit opportunities to sit, and prompt natural movement during instructional time.
  • Changing the social space creates a culture where physical activity is the norm during both instructional and non-instructional time, like during recess, lunch, and before and after school.

Here are some design solutions:

Physical Space Social Space
  • Decals in the hallways or on the walls, like ones to jump over or reach for
  • Furniture or equipment that allows for students to stand, swivel, or change positions easily
  • Artwork and signage that encourages activity, movement, and getting outside
  • Open space in shared multi-purpose areas, like cafeterias and learning commons
  • Open space in outdoor areas, like fields, tracks, pathways, and gardens
  • Structured or semi-structured physical activity programs, like morning exercise groups, intramurals, active clubs, and athletic teams
  • Staff encouragement for students to try activities that suit their interests and passions, regardless of athletic ability
  • Student engagement around the sport and recreation equipment they’d like to have at school 
  • Policies and/or staff encouragement to limit sedentary screen time on school property during non-instructional hours



How it connects

Research suggests that when students move more and sit less at school, their overall levels of physical activity improve. They may also have better behaviour, attention, and focus in the classroom.

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Public Health Agency and Canada & Reebok

APPLE Schools



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