Physical Health


Physical health is the physical wellbeing of the school community and its members.

Environments that enhance student learning require attention to the physical health and safety needs of the entire school community. Research demonstrates that academic achievement improves in schools where students are physically healthy and feel physically safe. Ultimately, a healthy school community is the foundation for a comprehensive high-quality education.

Exercise promotes academic learning.

Exercise via physical education and recess helps students to function even better in the classroom. A good cardiovascular system developed from regular exercise promotes excellent blood and oxygen circulation. This allows more nutrients to circulate throughout the body, most importantly the brain. This circulation produces a longer attention span during classes resulting in longer concentration and absorption. In addition to improved academic performance, daily recess and physical education classes are essential to the healthy development of children and adolescents and is an important component with regard to reducing obesity and other diseases related to lack of exercise.

The school nurse has a crucial role in the seamless provision of comprehensive health services to children and youth.

Aside from home, school represents the second most influential environment in a child's life. As more students enter school with health problems, it is a challenge to manage their care throughout the school day. The school nurse is the health care representative on site.  A thorough understanding of the school nurse's role is essential to ensure coordinated care. There is an undisputable relationship between health and learning, and there is also a connection between school nurse availability, student well-being and educational success.

The role of the school nurse encompasses both health and educational goals. Students today may face family crises, homelessness, immigration, poverty, and violence, which increase their physical needs. School nurses perform a critical role within the school setting by addressing the major health problems experienced by children.

School health services are important to the well-being on children within the educational setting.

School health services are essential in providing emergency care for illness or injury while at school.  Health services in school ensure that all students get appropriate referrals to health care providers (vision, dental, mental health, etc.).  In addition, these services help to monitor for and control the spread of communicable disease, provide education and counseling in a variety of health and wellness topics and serve as a medical resource in the development of policies and procedures in the school.  These services are designed to improve the health and well-being of children and in some cases whole families.  They are intended to minimize health barriers to learning for school age children.


UNSPECIFIED. (2009). The Health and Well-Being of Children: A Portrait of States and the Nation 2007. Project Report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.

Marx, E. and Wooley, S.F. (Eds.) (1998). Health Is Academic: A Guide to Coordinated School Health Programs (p.4). New York, N.Y.: Teachers College Press.

Allensworth, D., Lawson, L., Nicholson, L., and Wyche. J. (Eds.). (1997). School & Health: Our Nation’s Investment (p. 226). National Academy Press: Washington, D.C.


Featured Resources

a picture of the cover page for the School Health Profiles Report

Presents a system of surveys assessing school health policies and practices in States, large urban school districts, and territories. Surveys are conducted biennially by education and health agencies among middle and high school principals and lead health education teachers. Profiles monitor the current state of physical and health education, health services, bullying and sexual harassment prevention, family and community engagement, and school policies related to tobacco-use prevention and nutrition. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Provides high-quality, comprehensive, and integrated health and wellness services focused on the unique needs of adolescents and young adults. Moreover, shares how health professionals can take an adolescent- and young adult-centered approach to providing care.

Office of Adolescent Health

Offers resources for students and Higher Education staff to help address students’ health needs. These needs include many new challenges, risks, and responsibilities.


Presents the latest PALA+ update, released in March 2017. The PALA+ healthy eating goals have been refreshed to reflect new guidance from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The updated resources support health educators as they develop physical health promotion programs in schools.  

President's Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition
Healthy Students, Promising Futures

Contains information that references resources, programs, and services that support children's physical and mental health. Information is organized into five High-Impact Opportunity sections: helping eligible students and family members enroll in health insurance; providing and expanding reimbursable health services in schools; providing or expanding services that support at-risk students; promoting healthy school practices through nutrition, physical activity, and health education; and building local partnerships and participating in hospital community health needs assessments.

U.S. Department of Education
School-Based Physical Fitness and the Link to Student Academic Outcomes and Improved School Climate

Details the need for opportunities for children and adolescents to regularly engage in fun and age-appropriate physical activities to maintain healthy development and fitness. The brief, developed by the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE), underscores the importance of physical activity for children's health, identify roles schools can promote school-based physical activity programs, highlights evidence from the research linking physical activity, fitness, and academic performance, and more.

Victoria Stuart-Cassel
Voices for Healthy Kids

Presents a website that allows visitors to request information on resources and funding opportunities designed to help coalitions educate their communities on ways to provide every child with healthy foods and drinks at home and in school, safe streets for biking and walking, and places to play after school. 

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