Crossing the Bridge to Physical Activity in Out-of-School-Time Programs

February 17, 2015

HOST authors explain that the widespread adoption of physical activity standards for OST programs presents important opportunities for research.

In Preventative Medicine (October 2014), HOST authors Jean L. Wiecha, Jennifer Hofman, Michael W. Beets, Amy Rauworth, Natalie Colabianchi, Anne Ferree, and Georgia Hall note some of the challenges associated with implementing physical activity in out-of-school-time programs:

With at least 10 million children participating in afterschool programs each year, OST programs clearly have enormous reach and are a promising and natural extension of school-based efforts to increase children's physical activity. Challenges specific to this setting exist nonetheless. While they have more curricular flexibility than public schools, OST programs are rarely obligated by licensing or regulation to include specific types or amounts of physical activity, and in fact state or district licensing and regulatory requirements vary greatly. In addition, there are many OST sites to reach and communicating with them en masse is difficult. OST programs are administered through a range of organizational structures and staff participation in professional networks is voluntary. Despite these challenges, great strides have occurred that place OST programs on the forefront of addressing childhood physical inactivity.

Going forward, they say, the adoption of physical activity standards offers opportunities for research on their implementation and impact:

Research on adoption and implementation of the NAA HEPA standards in OST settings can build the evidence base that is required to direct us more firmly on the pathway to improving physical activity of all youth. It is our hope that in the coming years the OST and research community will invest in rigorous research that integrates service delivery with state-of-the-art physical activity measurement, research design, and implementation science frameworks.

Read the full study.

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The HOST site is managed by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College

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