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What is CSPAP?

Comprehensive School Physical Activity ProgramSchools play a vital role in ensuring children and adolescents get the nationally recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Through the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model, schools can provide many opportunities for students to be physically active. The WSCC model includes physical education and physical activity and the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) is a framework for planning and organizing activities this component.  A CSPAP is a multi-component approach by which school districts and schools use all opportunities for students to be physically active, meet the nationally-recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime. A CSPAP reflects strong coordination and synergy across all of the components: physical education as the foundation; physical activity before, during, and after school; staff involvement; and family and community engagement.

CDC, in collaboration with SHAPE America, developed a step-by-step guide for schools and school districts to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school physical activity programs.

The goals of a CSPAP are:

  • To provide a variety of school-based physical activities to enable all students to participate in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day.
  • To provide coordination among the CSPAP components to maximize understanding, application, and practice of the knowledge and skills learned in physical education.

Physical education is an academic subject and serves as the foundation of a CSPAP. Physical education provides students with a planned sequential K-12 standards-based program of curricula and instruction designed to develop motor skills, knowledge, and behaviors for healthy active living, physical fitness, sportsmanship, self-efficacy, and emotional intelligence. The essential components of a physical education program include policies and environment, curriculum, appropriate instruction and student assessment. The Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool  (PECAT) is a self-assessment and planning guide developed by CDC. It is designed to help school districts and schools conduct clear, complete, and consistent analyses of physical education curricula, based upon national physical education standards.

Physical activity before and after school provides opportunities for all students, including those with special needs, to:

  • practice what they have learned in physical education,
  • work toward the nationally recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity,
  • become more adequately prepared for learning,
  • engage in safe, social, and supervised activities, and
  • identify activities they enjoy and might engage in long term.

Before- and after-school physical activity programs offer students an opportunity to be physically active instead of waiting in a sedentary setting for the school day to begin or end, and might include a walking and biking to school program, physical activity clubs and intramural programs (e.g., programs that are voluntary, student-centered, and give equal opportunity for all students to participate), informal recreation or play on school grounds, physical activity in school-based child care programs, integrating physical activity in homework during out of school hours, and interscholastic sports. Finally, before- and after-school physical activity programs can be coordinated with community-based organizations (e.g., YMCAs, community parks and recreation) and delivered in school settings, providing benefits to the students, families, and community members. 

Physical activity during school includes physical activity in a variety of settings throughout the school day besides the requisite physical education instructional class. The main ways students can participate in physical activity during the school day are

  • recess,
  • physical activity integrated into classroom lessons,
  • physical activity breaks in and outside the classroom, and
  • lunch time club or intramural programs.

These opportunities should be offered to all grade levels K-12 and not exclude middle and high school youth, who also can benefit from engaging in physical activity throughout the school day.

Family and community engagement in school-based physical activity programs provides numerous benefits. When families are active together, they spend additional time together and experience health benefits. Parents, guardians, or other family members can support a CSPAP by participating in evening or weekend special events, or by serving as physical education or physical activity volunteers. Community involvement allows maximum use of school and community resources and creates a connection between school and community-based physical activity opportunities. Community organizations might provide programs before or after school or establish joint-use or shared-use agreements with schools.

Staff Involvement in the CSPAP and support for school employee wellness and leadership training contribute to the overall culture of physical activity at a school. School employee wellness programs improve staff health, increase physical activity levels, and are cost effective. School staffs that are committed to good health practices are positive role models for students and may show increased support for student participation in physical activity. Teachers and other school staff members can integrate physical activity into classroom academic instruction and breaks, and support recess, intramurals, and other physical activity offerings.

Resources for CSPAP Policy