Teachers assign homework or extra credit activities for physical education (PE) or health class that require students to be physically active outside of school. Parents are often asked to sign off on the activities completed to fulfill these homework assignments.
Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)
Increased physical activity
Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes
Increased healthy habits
Improved physical fitness
Improved weight status
Evidence of Effectiveness
There is some evidence that assigning homework or extra credit for physical education (PE) class increases physical activity levels for schoolchildren1, 2, 3 and college students4. Assigning PE homework as part of a multi-component obesity prevention intervention can also improve children’s fitness5 and weight status6 and increase physical activity levels7. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.
Homework that is relevant, motivating, and supported by parents; builds on class lessons; and holds students accountable for its accomplishment has been shown to increase children’s activity levels3. Such assignments can encourage healthy physical activity habits outside of school8. Experts suggest assignments should focus on reinforcing motor skills in addition to increasing physical activity and fitness knowledge. Assignments should also be carefully designed to avoid increasing the achievement gap between students with different levels of parental support9. Providing teachers with guidance regarding how to assign age-appropriate physical activity homework may increase the number of teachers assigning PE homework10.
Assigning homework or extra credit activities is generally considered to be a low or no-cost approach to increasing students’ physical activity that can be implemented by existing PE, Health, or classroom teachers11, 12.
Impact on Disparities
PE and classroom teachers across the country are assigning physical activity homework, extra credit activities, or providing on-line workouts at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Camarillo, CA13 and Monroe, NC14 are examples of communities undertaking these types of initiatives.
Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) is a teacher-created, on-line site where teachers can share materials, resources, and best practices free of charge or for purchase. TpT includes many resources for PE homework15.
WI DPI-Active schools - Evers T. Active schools toolkit. Madison: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WI DPI); 2011.
PE Central-Fitness homework - PE Central. Middle school PE lesson ideas: PE fitness homework materials.
Krupa-Fitness homework - Krupa K. Promoting active & healthy lifestyles: Fitness homework. PE Links 4U.
HOST-PA - Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition. Resources: Physical activity (PA).
AHA-Middle school lessons - American Heart Association (AHA). Middle school lesson plans.
* Journal subscription may be required for access.
1 Duncan 2011 - Duncan S, McPhee JC, Schluter PJ, et al. Efficacy of a compulsory homework programme for increasing physical activity and healthy eating in children: The healthy homework pilot study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011;8:127.
2 Smith 2003* - Smith MA, Claxton DB. Using active homework in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. 2003;74(5):28-32.
3 Gabbei 2001* - Gabbei R, Hamrick D. Using physical activity homework to meet the national standards. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. 2001;72(4):21-6.
4 Claxton 2009* - Claxton D, Wells GM. The effect of physical activity homework on physical activity among college students. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2009;6(2):203-10.
5 Meyer 2014 - Meyer U, Schindler C, Zahner L, et al. Long-term effect of a school-based physical activity program (KISS) on fitness and adiposity in children: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. PLOS ONE. 2014;9(2):e87929.
6 Fairclough 2013 - Fairclough SJ, Hackett AF, Davies IG, et al. Promoting healthy weight in primary school children through physical activity and nutrition education: A pragmatic evaluation of the CHANGE! randomised intervention study. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:626.
7 Lubans 2014* - Lubans D, Cohen K, Potnikoff R, Callister R, Morgan P. The SCORES physical activity intervention for children attending schools in low-income communities: A cluster RCT. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2014;18(1):e121.
8 Pettman 2010 - Pettman T, McAllister M, Verity F, et al. Eat well be active community programs: Final report. South Australia Department of Health; 2010.
9 Hill 2018 - Hill K. Homework in physical education? A review of physical education literature. The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. 2018;89(5).
10 Thom 2012 - Thom S, Yun J. Factors affecting physical educators' assigning physical education homework. 2012 AAHPERD National Convention & Exposition; Boston, MA. 2012.
11 CDC MMWR-Baranowski 1997 - Baranowski T, Bar-Or O, Blair S, et al. Guidelines for school and community programs to promote lifelong physical activity among young people. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 1997;46(RR-06):1-36.
12 Mitchell 2000* - Mithcell M, Barton GV, Stanne K. The role of homework in helping students meet physical education goals. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. 2000;71(5):30-4.
13 Monte Vista-PE homework - Monte Vista Middle School. Physical education: Homework assignments/handouts.
14 Union Academy-PE - Union Academy Charter School. PE/Exercise.
15 TpT-PE homework - Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT). Physical education homework resources.
Related What Works for Health Strategies
To see citations and implementation resources for this strategy, visit:
To see all strategies: