Estonian initiative boosting student activity wins global award

17 November 2023
by Eva Toome


The University of Tartu’s Move Lab in Estonia has achieved notable recognition by winning the Health-Promoting Schools Award at the MOVE Congress. This award is part of the ISCA Awards, honouring outstanding initiatives in Health-Enhancing Physical Activity. The Move Lab was selected from a pool of 55 eligible organisations and individuals, with the awards being presented at the MOVE Congress in Madrid, Spain.

The Move Lab’s winning initiative, Schools in Motion, is a science-driven education innovation programme in Estonia that integrates physical activities into every school day. This includes active travel to and from school and movement during and between indoor and outdoor lessons. A key aspect of Schools in Motion is its whole-school approach, creating opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day in various forms such as recess, lessons, school travel, physical education lessons, extra-curricular activities, school events, and even teachers’ activities.

Advancing active learning in Estonia

As of 2023, 205 schools in Estonia, making up 40% of all general education schools in the country, have joined the Schools in Motion network. This diverse group of schools, varying in size and location, reports significantly more opportunities for students to be active during the school day than other schools. This increased activity correlates with students feeling better at school, having better relationships with classmates, and attending school more eagerly.

Illustration: Schools in Motion

The programme’s organiser, the Move Lab offers interdisciplinary support, including seminars, workshops, and professional advice. They encourage schools to rethink how reconceptualised spaces can foster increased physical activities. The programme also supports the well-being of teachers and has led to changes in schools, such as longer recesses and more engagement of students in planning and leading activities.

This innovative programme, initiated by the University of Tartu’s Move Lab in 2016, was developed in response to research indicating that many Estonian children were not achieving the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. The programme has grown substantially from its initial ten voluntary schools to encompass a significant portion of Estonian schools, demonstrating its effectiveness and appeal.

Schools in Motion insights 2023

  • Over 53% of Estonian students are enrolled in these schools.
  • Students in Schools in Motion have more opportunities for physical activity during the school day, including active learning, recess activities, and support from teachers.
  • Physical activity correlates with positive feelings about school, better peer relationships, and eagerness to attend school.
  • Longer-standing Schools in Motion show better outcomes, including more support for active school culture, better equipment, and more teachers using active teaching methods.
  • 99% of parents value physical activity opportunities for their children during the school day.
  • 94% of parents appreciate daily outdoor recess for their children.
Source: Schools in Motion webpage


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