The Challenge: Nearly one in three young people in the United States are overweight or obese and lack of physical activity contributes to the epidemic.
Make an impact: Leading public health officials recognize after-school programs as an important setting for promoting physical activity and preventing obesity. In recent years, 14 states have adopted policies and national standards have been developed to help increase the amount of physical activity children accumulate while attending after-school programs, but many of this standards and policies lack clearly defined benchmarks.
What the findings are about: This brief summarizes research on physical activity in after-school programs and examines how policies can help after-school programs more effectively promote physical activity and prevent obesity among children.
Key Findings and Recommendations:
Children are getting less than half of the recommended amount of physical activity from after-school time.
Policies regarding after-school physical activity are inconsistent, ranging from the vague “provide scheduled daily play time,” to the specific “20 percent of daily program time for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.”
The majority of existing policies regarding physical activity for after-school programs claim to be evidence-based, yet none of the evidence cited was based on data collected within the after-school program environment.
Promising strategies include maximizing the amount of time children spend in physical activity within the period of time already allocated for activity; refining existing evidence-based curricula to improve its effectiveness at increasing physical activity; and ensuring that activities appeal to boys and girls.
An abbreviated fact sheet is available that highlights the research brief's main findings.
Another fact sheet contains practical information organizations can use to increase the amount and quality of physical activity in afterschool and other out-of-school time programs. The fact sheet highlights evidence-based physical activity recommendations from the National Afterschool Association. It includes information on how to objectively measure whether children and youth are being active enough using pedometers.
Beets, M.W. Policies and Standards for Promoting Physical Activity in After-School Programs. A Research Brief. Princeton, NJ: Active Living Research, a National Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; May 2012. Available from: www.activelivingresearch.org.