“It’s a battle … you want to do it, but howwill you get it done?”: Teachers’ and principals’ perceptions of implementing additional physical activity in school for academic performance

Vera van den Berg, Rosanne Salimi, Renate H.M. de Groot, Jelle Jolles, Mai J.M. Chinapaw, Amika S. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


School is an ideal setting to promote and increase physical activity (PA) in children. However, implementation of school-based PA programmes seems difficult, in particular due to schools’ focus on academic performance and a lack of involvement of school staff in program development. The potential cognitive and academic benefits of PA might increase chances of successful implementation. Therefore, the aim of this qualitative study was: (1) to explore the perceptions of teachers and principals with regard to implementation of additional PA aimed at improving cognitive and academic performance, and (2) to identify characteristics of PA programmes that according to them are feasible in daily school practice. Twenty-six face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with primary school teachers (grades 5 and 6) and principals in The Netherlands, and analysed using inductive content analysis. Teachers and principals expressed their willingness to implement additional PA if it benefits learning. Time constraints appeared to be a major barrier, and strongly influenced participants’ perceptions of feasible PA programmes. Teachers and principals emphasised that additional PA needs to be short, executed in the classroom, and provided in “ready-to-use” materials, i.e., that require no or little preparation time (e.g., a movie clip). Future research is needed to strengthen the evidence on the effects of PA for academic purposes, and should examine the forms of PA that are both effective as well as feasible in the school setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1160
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Academic performance
  • Feasibility
  • Intervention development
  • Interviews
  • Perceptions principals
  • Perceptions teachers
  • Physical activity
  • Qualitative research
  • School setting

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