Physical activity in state schools


The department recognises the importance of physical activity in the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Engaging in regular physical activity of at least moderate intensity is part of a healthy and active lifestyle. Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for children and young people aged 5-17 years recommend:

  • at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day
  • limiting recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours a day
  • breaking up long periods of sitting as often as possible.

Schools have an important role in supporting student participation in quality physical activity through:

  • assisting students to develop a physical skill base that supports active participation in a range of physical activities
  • supporting active play and recreation during activity breaks
  • providing access to equipment and facilities (including grassed spaces) to encourage active participation
  • supporting the adoption of active travel options to and from school (e.g. walking, cycling and/or using scooters)
  • minimising sitting time and breaking up long periods of sitting in classes as often as possible
  • supporting increased understanding about the importance of students limiting their use of electronic media for entertainment (e.g. television, seated electronic games and computer use) to no more than 2 hours a day as lower levels are associated with reduced health risks.

Why is physical activity important in schools?

All children and young people need to be physically active; and physically active children and young people are more likely to become physically active adults.

Regular physical activity enhances students' ability to learn and supports student health and wellbeing.

Schools, through effective organisation and delivery, are well placed to maximise participation, enjoyment and skill development for all students including those with diverse needs, abilities and interests.

When can physical activity occur at school?

Daily physical activity is important. Both structured and incidental physical activity are essential components of school-based child development.

Schools provide opportunities to all students for:

  • as part of the Health and Physical Education learning area
  • in the delivery of other learning areas
  • in school sport
  • in school-organised activities before and after school and during lunchbreaks
  • through unstructured independent and group play (children) and recreational physical activity (young people) during significant class breaks.

Ideas for physical activity

  • use activity periods of different durations (e.g. 1 x 30-minute session, 2 x 15-minute sessions, or 3 x 10-minute sessions per day)
  • use Smart Activities or high-intensity energisers within the classroom
  • implement perceptual motor programs for P-2 students to develop fundamental movement, coordination and manipulative skills.

Physical activity that is sustained and of at least moderate intensity

To support health and wellbeing, physical activity must be sustained and be of at least moderate intensity. Sessions of physical activity should last at least ten minutes, however it is acknowledged that any activity is beneficial and more is better.

Moderate-intensity activities cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate and conversation can be maintained. (In comparison, vigorous-intensity activities cause a noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate; and speaking in full sentences between breaths is difficult.)

In planning to provide physical activity, schools consider their particular contexts and the needs of students.

Schools can involve students in a broad range of physical activities of at least moderate intensity. The activities encourage participation and enjoyment, are generally not competitive and are easily achievable for all students.

Schools ensure effective risk management procedures are in place for all school activities.

Community partnerships:

  • Foster community partnerships to enhance opportunities for children and young people to participate in physical activity.
  • Provide/ promote community access to school sport and recreation facilities to benefit and promote physical activity in the broader community.
  • Consider accessing the Australian Sports Commission's Sporting Schools program focusing on physical activity in primary schools before, during and after school.
Last updated 12 March 2019