With the elimination of physical education and recess, the opportunities for children to be physically active in schools has declined. Therefore, afterschool programs have been identified as ideal settings where children (5–14 years) can accumulate a significant portion of their total daily, recommended level of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA).
PURPOSE. The first purpose of this pilot study was to quantify the level of in-school MVPA in underserved elementary school settings. A second purpose of the study was to quantify the level of MVPA achieved through a structured afterschool program that integrates physical activity with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning component.
METHODS. Participants were 13 children (female n=5, age= 9.36, SD=0.83) enrolled in an afterschool program offered at a YMCA located in an urban community. All participants wore accelerometers to track their MVPA during the school day (6 hours and 15 minutes) and while participating in the structured afterschool program (30 minutes) called Active Science. During the program, the participants completed thirty minutes of physical activity followed by a science lesson delivered through the Active Science Mobile App. Physical activity levels were monitored for five consecutive days (Monday-Friday) during the in-school and afterschool environments.
RESULTS. Participants mean in school and afterschool MVPA were M=14.5 + 2.60, M=16.87 + 3.6 minutes, respectively. T-test showed a significant difference between these two settings t(12)= 16.29, p< .05. The 6-hour school day contributed to approximately 24% of the recommended daily physical activity, while the 30-minute afterschool program contributed to 28% of the daily-recommended MVPA time.
CONCLUSION. A guided and well-structured afterschool physical activity program can significantly impact MVPA levels in children. The results of this study are well aligned with national recommendations that endorse innovative strategies to incorporate movement into afterschool programs to improve physical activity levels in children.