Fall 2015 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Increasing Physical Activity in Afterschool Programs

 National experts recommend that school-aged children should have at least 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily. (See Model Child Care Health Policies a, fill-in-the-blank document, free online at www.ecels-healthychildcarepa.org) Vigorous physical activity leaves children breathing hard and able to speak only in short phrases. Physical activity can be child-led or adult-led (structured) movement.

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A study reported in the June 2015 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found a large gap exists between the time national experts recommend for physical activity and the usual prac-tice for afterschool programs. The study involved 20 afterschool programs. Together, these programs served more than 1,700 children aged 6–12 years. Half the programs received technical assistance and professional development to increase physical activity levels of enrolled children. The other half didn’t receive these interventions. During the study period, the children in both groups wore accelerometers to measure their physical activity.

A higher percentage of children in the afterschool programs that received the technical assistance and professional development increased their physical activity than in the programs that didn’t get this help. The increases were statistically significant. However, the results showed lots of room for further improvement. The percentage of girls in the intervention programs who met a minimum 30 minute guideline increased from 16.7% to 21.4%. For boys the increase was from 34.2% to 41.6%.

playground pg 5Encourage children to accumulate vigorous physical activity by being active 10 minutes or more at a time. Having fun is key. Dancing to fast-pace music can be fun. Counting and recording or plotting on a graph the number of times individual children can climb stairs in the facility over a period of time can be an ongoing individual challenge and math lesson. If some children are tired, frustrated or unable to do a particular activity, offer them a different activity.

How many minutes of vigorous physical activity do the children in your afterschool program routinely do? Do they meet the minimum 30 minutes or the best practice 60 minutes guideline daily? You can ask for technical assistance and professional development to work toward providing the recommended amount of vigorous physical activity. Contact ECELS for advice about next steps you can take to meet this goal.