At the Crossroads: How Physical Education Can Succeed in a Public Health Paradigm

Stephen E Palmer, Timothy K. Behrens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Physical education (PE) can make meaningful contributions to public health by directly providing moderate to vigorous physical activity (PA) opportunities for school-aged youth. Quality PE aims to contribute indirectly to PA beyond the school day. Unfortunately, insufficient evidence exists regarding the impact of PE on lifelong PA. This has led PE to a crossroads. Moving straight through the crossroads adds comprehensive school physical activity program responsibilities to the PE teacher’s load. Turning left results in PE teachers being replaced by PA leaders. The right turn reaffirms that the aim of PE is to teach youth the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to become physically literate and active for life. The right turn is the most difficult because it requires systemically changing school PE that has remained stagnant for decades. Recommendations are presented that include embracing the comprehensive school physical activity program model, conducting research clearly defining the role of PE and directing the contributions of PE to broader public health aims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-479
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017


  • Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP)
  • health
  • health promotion
  • kinesiology
  • physical activity
  • physical fitness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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