Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Barbara Fenesi

2nd Supervisor

Deborah Chiodo



Ontario elementary school teachers are mandated to implement 20 minutes of physical activity into classroom instruction each day under the Ontario Daily Physical Activity policy but are experiencing barriers. Effective implementation is essential to school-aged children's daily physical activity recommendation and, ultimately, the physical, cognitive and emotional benefits that coincide. The present study engaged 13 teachers across Ontario who teach in elementary schools through small virtual focus groups. Discussion on the facilitators, barriers, and recommendations to incorporating physical activity in the classroom was explored through the social-cognitive and social-ecological frameworks. A thematic analysis revealed teachers most frequently identified barriers related to the institution, students, and time. The most frequently identified facilitators were associated with students, intrapersonal and institutional factors. To improve implementation, teachers recommended training, resources, and community partnerships. The data highlights multi-level factors that influence successful implementation. Implications for improving future implementation are discussed.

Summary for Lay Audience

Engagement in physical activity is crucial to the healthy development of a child, with benefits in areas such as cognition, healthy weight, and mental health. International guidelines for physical activity recommend that children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Despite these benefits and recommendations, only seven percent of children in Canada are meeting these guidelines. The Ontario Ministry of Education recognized that children are failing to reach the recommended daily physical activity levels and, in 2005, implemented the Daily Physical Activity policy. The policy aims to ensure all elementary school children have a minimum of 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each school day during instructional time. A recent evaluation of the implementation of the daily physical activity policy in 2016 found that only half of Ontario teachers are meeting this mandate. There is a critical need to identify why teachers are struggling to meet the daily physical activity mandate to better support implementation.

Prior studies have identified barriers and facilitators at multiple levels of influence. Identified barriers included lack of space, time and support, no accountability, priority to academic courses, student behaviours, and teacher confidence. Identified facilitators included teacher motivation and skill, resource sharing, and student benefits. These findings support the social-cognitive theory, which looks at psychological factors and the social-ecological model framework, which suggests multiple levels of influence.

The current study engaged teachers of kindergarten to grade eight across Ontario to identify the barriers, facilitators, and recommendations to improve the implementation of daily physical activity in the classroom. Thirteen teachers participated in semi-structured virtual focus groups about incorporating physical activity in the classroom. Results from the study supported the findings of the previous literature and brought forth new unique contributions. The most frequently identified barriers were institutional, student, and time-related. The most frequently identified facilitators were student, intrapersonal, and institutional related. The most frequently identified recommendations were training, resources, and community partnerships. Noteworthy themes included changing policy trends, weather, and school-wide initiatives. Results from this study will be used to better support daily physical activity implementation in the future.