Physical Activity Policies

Create policies that increase physical activity in school, early care and education environments, or work places.


Physical activity policies can formalize or standardize physical activity so that it happens more regularly in settings such as schools, workplaces, or early care and education (ECE) centers. Policies are often the basis of comprehensive initiatives to improve health.

Physical activity policies include additions to school wellness policies, worksite policies that include incentives for active transportation or paid physical activity breaks, policies for opening school recreational areas to the community, or creating less restrictive ECE center inclement weather policies for children to go outside.

Wisconsin Examples

The Child and Family Center at Madison Area Technical College: This early care and education (ECE) center focuses on keeping kids active throughout the day. Staff keep a collection of physical activity ideas with them at all times to ensure they always know how to encourage the children to keep moving. Since the Child and Family Center increased the amount of daily teacher-led physical activity, teachers have noted fewer disruptive behaviors in children.

Equity in Practice

Recognizing Inequity: Physical activity policies may decrease disparities by increasing access to places for physical activity (e.g., shared-use agreements for open gym time). However, physical activity policies may not always be implemented in facilities, workplaces, or communities with greatest need.

Advancing Equity: Implementing physical activity policies in low-income areas may reduce disparities related to this strategy. Changing local environments and lowering costs of existing physical activity opportunities in low-income areas are more likely to reduce inequities associated with limited levels of access.

Implementation Resources

Local Wellness Policy Best Practices: This project of the Wisconsin Health Atlas highlights best practices to promote child health in school wellness policies and includes model policy language for six different policy areas.

DHS Worksite Nutrition and Physical Activity Resources: The Wisconsin Department of Health Services offers a Worksite Wellness toolkit that contains policy examples. The site also has summaries of several Wisconsin case studies or pilot programs that include worksite wellness policies.

Active Early: A Wisconsin Guide for Improving Childhood Physical Activity: This guide is designed to help ECE professionals address childhood obesity by improving physical activity in their programs. There is also a companion guide, Healthy Bites, that focuses on healthy eating.

Leadership for Healthy Communities Action Strategies Toolkit: The strategies in this toolkit are divided into several policy areas in order to increase awareness of policy options to reduce childhood obesity. The toolkit has been organized into two main sections—Active Living and the Built Environment, and Healthy Eating.

Eat Smart Move More policy template: North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More Worksite Initiative has created a workplace physical activity policy template.

Assessment Tools

WellSAT 2.0: This nationally used tool is specifically for school wellness policies and contains a number of physical activity questions. This tool was the basis for Local Wellness Policy Best Practices, a project of the Wisconsin Health Atlas.

CDC Step-By-Step Guide: Using the Healthy Hospital Food, Beverage, and Physical Activity Environment Scans: This tool is specifically for hospitals, and has a number of questions that can be related to hospital policies.

Go NAP SACC Infant & Child Physical Activity Self-Assessment: This assessment tool, which is used in early care and education settings, is used to assess the minutes of physical activity done by children as well as policies addressing physical activity.

Go NAP SACC Outdoor Play & Learning Self-Assessment: This assessment tool complements the Go NAP SACC physical activity assessment above, and assesses the amount and quality of outdoor play time in early care and education environments, as well as policies.