Physical Activity for Schools
Public Health Nurses are available to provide schools in York Region with consultation, support, programs and resources on physical activity for staff, students and parents. Find out how to contact the York Region Public Health Nurse for your school by calling Access York at 1-877-464-9675. The resources below are available to support schools that identify physical activity as a priority.
Physically active children who meet the Canadian 24 Hour Movement Guidelines have better physical and mental health.
Walking is a natural and easy form of physical activity that can be enjoyed by most children. No special skills or equipment are required, and it can be done year-round at anytime, anywhere. It's an easy activity to incorporate into children’s daily routine and brings health benefits such as developing stronger muscles and bones, a healthy heart and maintaining a healthy weight. Walking also helps to improve mood and reduce stress. It helps children to have better focus and concentration in school and be more engaged with family and friends.
Resources to help incorporate walking into the day:
Active School Travel
The Active School Travel program supports elementary and secondary schools with education and initiatives that encourage families to choose active and sustainable travel to and from school. This includes walking, cycling, wheeling, taking the school bus (if eligible) as well as parking and walking a block.
Why the concern?
- Canadian children are not getting enough physical activity
- Vehicular traffic emits greenhouse gases which contribute to poor air quality that negatively impact children’s health and cognitive development
- School site traffic is a growing burden as increased car use makes school zones congested, polluted, and a hazard for students
Benefits to active travel to and from school:
- Contributes to increased daily physical activity which is beneficial to both physical and mental health
- Increases alertness, attention, memory, and recall during the school day
- Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety
- Builds awareness of, and connection to your community and neighbourhood
- Encourages social interaction and improves social skills
- Increases time spent with family and friends
- Helps students gain independence and confidence
Tips to get to and from school:
- Organize a walking group with friends to go to and from school
- Walk or wheel (e.g., bike, scooter, rollerblade) with children to and from school
- Drive to 5: If driving, park a block away and walk the last five minutes to get to school
- Participate in active school travel events (e.g., IWALK, Winter Walk Day, Bike to School Week, Spring into Spring). Visit Ontario Active School Travel for more information.
For more information or to get started, please contact: @email
- Walking to School
- Pedestrian Safety - Running
- Pedestrian Safety - Eye Contact
- Pedestrian Safety - Crosswalks
- Be Back to School Safe
Outdoor Physical Activity
Research shows that children who spend time outdoors in nature are physically active, learn to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and develop skills to cope with stress.1 The nature backpack program offers resources to enhance outdoor experiences for young school-aged children.
The nature backpack program is a lending system of themed backpacks:
- Explore Outdoors – a general nature backpack
- Buds, Blossoms, and Leaves – focus on wildflowers, shrubs, and trees
- Things with Wings – focus on birds, butterflies, bees, moths, and dragonflies
- Who’s Been Here? – focus on animals, tracking and animal evidence
- Creepy Crawly Critters – focus on spiders, slugs, bugs, and centipedes
- Splish, Splash, Splosh – focus on aquatic habitats and their organisms
- Winter Outdoor Fun – focus on learning about nature in the winter
Materials in each backpack vary depending on the theme of the backpack and can include trail guides, reading books, activity books, activity sheets (i.e., bark rubbing activity) or wildlife identification sheets.
York Region school staff: please contact your Public Health Nurse to borrow nature backpack or email @email. School Board Outdoor Education programs can also be contacted to find out more about current lending resources.
For up-to-date information about COVID-19 Public Health guidelines, visit york.ca/safeatschool
All other community inquiries: please email @email
Thank you to our school and community partners for keeping the nature backpack program safe and sustainable. Together, let’s get children outdoors, active, and curious!
- Play outdoors in the winter
- Play outdoors in the spring
- Play outdoors in the summer
- Play outdoors in the fall
- Have your kids played today?
1 Outdoor Play Canada, State of the Sector Summary Report (2021) Retrieved August 10, 2022, from https://www.outdoorplaycanada.ca/outdoor-play-in-canada-2021-state-of-the-sector-report/
Whole School Physical Activity/Daily Physical Activity
Daily Physical Activity (DPA) was mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Education in 2005 (P/PM 138) and requires all elementary students to have a minimum of twenty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day during instructional time.
PLAY Program (Peer Leadership Active Youth)
The PLAY program offers leadership training for students in grades five to eight who, once trained, teach interactive and co-operative games to students in kindergarten to grade three at recess. This program promotes positive spaces for learning and play by enhancing student leadership skills, promoting inclusivity of all students on the playground, increasing physical activity opportunities and enhancing social skills and overall mental well-being.
The Handbook for PLAY Leader Champions is made up of five sections to guide leaders and junior students through a half day training session. There is also a Handbook for PLAY Program Student Leaders that provides information and skill building through interactive activities where students learn about leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution, communication and respect. Following the training, student PLAY leaders implement their new skills while they lead active and fun games on the playground.
The PLAY Program includes 4 main resources:
- The PLAY Champion handbook guides and supports champions to run the program, including appendices consisting of tools and resources
- The PLAY Student Leader handbook provides information and skill-building through interactive activities where students learn about leadership, teamwork, conflict resolution, communication, and respect
- The PLAY Games handbook features fun and active games that PLAY Student Leaders will implement on the playground after the training session, putting their new skills into practice
York Region Public Health’s PLAY program links to elementary school curriculum expectations and supports the development of positive climates for learning in the York Region District School Board and the York Catholic District School Board.
To request PLAY resources for your school, please contact your York Region Public Health Nurse or call York Region Health Connection at 1 800 361-5653, TTY 1-866-252-9933 or York Region Public Health School Services Team at 1-877-464-9675 ext. 74407 or email at @email
Screen Time Reduction
The 2022 ParticipACTION Report Card for Children and Youth report that only 18% of children five to 17 years old are meeting the 2 hours per day of recreational screen time as per recommendation from the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth.
We all need to use screens, they are an important part of our day, but did you know you can practice mindful screen time? You can balance your use of screens with screen-free time for healthy activities with family and friends!
Research recommends promoting outdoor and nature-based play opportunities as that is linked to increase physical activity levels and improved mental health outcomes.
Pause to Play Challenge
The 2024 Pause to Play Challenge runs from April 22 - April 26, 2024.
The annual Spring Pause to Play Challenge encourages students to put their TVs, gaming devices, smartphones, tablets and computers on “pause” for one full week and be more physically active through playing outside. Parents can also join in with their kids at home!
- Did you know Pause to Play?
- Tips for Parents
- Pause to Play Student Activity Log Version A (Grades 4 to 8)
- Student Activity Log Version B (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
- Support Your Teens with Mindful Screen Time
For more information on the Pause to Play Challenge, please email York Region Public Health School Services at @email
Physical Activity Guidelines
Physical activity is important for children’s healthy growth and development. Active children have better cardiovascular fitness, stronger muscles and bones, and a reduced risk for developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and more. They also have improved mental health and well-being, are more engaged with family and friends and do better in school. Participation in regular physical activity at a young age can result in lifelong health benefits as active kids become active adults.