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Physical Activity: Programs for Different Groups

Categories:

  • Physical activity,
  • Social environment,
  • Community,
  • Facilities & organizations,
  • Schools,

Develop physical activity programs for different groups: schools, children, youth and families and seniors

High-impact: schools

How to implement

  • Provide different opportunities for physical activity in schools. This can be done through physical education classes, sports programs, physical activity clubs, walking/bicycling-to-school programs and after-school programming.1
  • Consider programming that:
    • Focuses on fun and play and encourages lifelong participation in physical activity.2, 3
    • Increases the intensity of physical activities (e.g., modify rules of games, substitute less active games with more active games).4
  • Provide programs led by trained personnel.5-7
    • Encourage teachers and school staff to act as role models by incorporating physical activity throughout the school day.8
    • Ensure program staff and volunteers are trained to design, plan and deliver physical activity sessions that meet children and young people's different needs and abilities.9
    • Foster positive attitudes toward physical activity and create appropriate content for students.8

Ever Active Schools has a comprehensive collection of tools and resources to support physical activity programming in schools through a comprehensive lens.

High-impact: Children, youth and families

How to implement

  • Develop programs for children, youth and families that:
    • Educate those who primarily interact with children and youth (e.g., parents, caregivers) to promote and support active living. This can be done by ensuring children and youth follow the guidelines for physical activity (e.g., 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day).1, 3, 6, 9, 10
    • Help families integrate movement into their daily activities and include intergenerational participation.
    • Consider how social and cultural factors influence physical activity participation and the types of activities enjoyed by children and youth.8, 9

High-impact: seniors

How to implement

  • Encourage communities to provide physical activity programs tailored to older adults:3, 11, 12
    • Offer a mix of aerobic strengthening, flexibility and stretching exercises, moderate intensity activities (e.g., dancing, walking, swimming, etc.) and strength and resistance exercise.3, 12
    • Consider all participants’ health and mobility needs and preferences.12
    • Promote daily activities such as shopping, housework, gardening, cycling and walking.12
    • Provide seniors with information and resources on physical activity and health promotion (e.g., through guest speakers, trips, events, etc.).12 

Emerging evidenceConsider chair-based exercises for seniors, particularly if they are frail.11 

Tip: Public buildings, community centers, churches and shopping malls offer safe places for groups to get active in any weather.3

  • Partner with other target groups, such as children, youth, adults and people with disabilities, to further encourage activity.3


  1. Koplan JP, Liverman CT, Kraak VA. Preventing childhood obesity: health in the balance. Washington (DC): National Academies Press; 2005. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22379642.
  2. Garcia J, Beyers J, Uetrecht C, et al. Healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weights guideline for public health in Ontario. Toronto (ON): Cancer Care Ontario, Program in Evidence-based Care; 2010. Available from: https://archive.cancercare.on.ca/common/pages/UserFile.aspx?fileId=64413
  3. MacArthur Group Inc. Physical activity strategy for Prince Edward Island 2004-2009. Charlottetown (PE): MacArthur Group; 2004. Available from: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/doh_actstrat.pdf.
  4. Community Preventive Services Task Force, CDC. Behavioral and social approaches to increase physical activity: Enhanced school-based physical education. The community guide. Washington (DC): CDC; 2014. Available from: https://www.thecommunityguide.org/findings/physical-activity-enhanced-school-based-physical-education.
  5. Williams G, Hamm MP, Shulhan J, Vandermeer B, Hartling L. Social media interventions for diet and exercise behaviours: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2014;4(2):e003926. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003926. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24525388.
  6. Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2002;22(4S):67-72. Available from: https://www.thecommunityguide.org/sites/default/files/publications/pa-ajpm-recs.pdf.
  7. Lipnowski S, Leblanc CMA. Healthy active living: physical activity guidelines for children and adolescents. Paediatrics & child health. 2012;17(4):209. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23543633.
  8. BC Ministry of Health. Evidence review: healthy living – physical activity and healthy eating. CORE public health functions for BC. Victoria (BC): BC Ministry of Health; 2006. Available from: https://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2010/healthy-child-youth-development-evidence-review.pdf.
  9. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Physical activity for children and young people. NICE guideline. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Care Excellence; 2009. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph17.
  10. National Guideline Clearinghouse. Maintaining a healthy weight and preventing excess weight gain among adults and children. Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality (AHRQ). Rockville (MD): AHRQ; 2015. Available from: https://www.guideline.gov/summaries/summary/49117.
  11. Anthony K, Robinson K, Logan P, Gordon AL, Harwood RH, Masud T. Chair-based exercises for frail older people: A systematic review. BioMed Research International. 2013;2013:1-9. doi: 10.1155/2013/309506. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3782120/
  12. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Mental wellbeing in over 65s: Occupational therapy and physical activity interventions. London (UK): NICE; 2008. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph16.
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