Policies and Standards for Promoting Physical Activity in After-School Programs

Research has been conducted to help promote physical activity among children in after-school programs. This research brief examines how promoting physical activity can be more effective through the use of policies and strategies.

Several key themes emerged from the research findings regarding the promotion of physical activity in after-school programs. First, while children do get some physical activity in after-school programs, it is not enough. For example, one study showed that children accumulate "less than half the minimum national recommendation for physical activity." Second, there is variation among the physical activity policies in after-school programs.

As this issue brief describes, policies for promoting physical activity in after-school programs need to be S.M.A.R.T. and should:

  • specifically target an important outcome (e.g., 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity);
  • be measurable;
  • have a clearly defined accountability system in place;
  • be "realistic," and
  • be achieved in a well-defined "timeframe."

Lastly, research has shown that strategies used to increase physical activity are varied and detailed evaluations of the programs are needed. While some programs had modest increases in the amount of time children spend doing physical activity, others have shown a decrease.

After-school programs have the ability to help children be more physically active, yet more efforts by public health officials and after-school program leaders are required to help increase the amount of time children spend being active.