Objective: Physical education (PE) has been attributed an important role in providing young people with physical activity. If sufficiently active, PE lessons could contribute to physical activity levels in youth. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the overall intensity of Dutch primary and secondary school physical education (PE) lessons and the influence of various lesson characteristics on these intensity levels. Methods:Between September 2008 and June 2009 heart rates were measured using the Polar Team System in a nationally distributed sample of 913 students in 40 schools in the Netherlands. Results: Overall percentages lesson time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) were 46.7% and 40.1% during primary school and secondary school PE respectively. Results indicated a sharp decline in girls’ PE intensity levels at the beginning of secondary school. Furthermore, secondary school boys were more active than girls. The high prevalence of teamgames in the Dutch PE curricula might prevent secondary school girls from attaining similar physical activity levels during PE.