Including obesity prevention in after-school programs

Schoolboy holding plate of lunch in school cafeteriaAn after-school program that encouraged moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and healthy snacks resulted in a small but significant reduction in body fat percentage for students who attended more than 40% of the time, reports the Journal of School Health.

After-school programs at elementary schools provide an opportunity for obesity prevention by incorporating physical activity, the researchers write. In this study, the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) operated the FitKid Project for 3 years at 9 elementary schools in Augusta, GA; 9 other elementary schools served as controls in the study. The 18 schools were randomly assigned to either a control or intervention condition.

A total of 601 subjects participated(48% boys and 52% girls 312 intervention and 289 control). The after-school program was offered free of charge to everyone attending the 9 intervention elementary schools. Students in the intervention group, who attended at least 40% of the after-school sessions, reduced % body fat by 0.76% (from 26.5% to 25.8%) while students in the control group reduced % body fat by only 0.1% (from 26.9% to 26.8%).

Reduction in % body fat was not significant among students who attended less than 40% of the intervention sessions. A greater decrease in body fat percentage was observed with higher program attendance.

All 3rd grade students attending the 9 intervention schools were invited to enroll in the Fit Kid Project free of charge. A 2-hour session was offered 5 days/week after school on school grounds that included physical activity as well as academic enrichment. There was no requirement for attendance and researchers believe the program would be more effective if there were minimum requirements for attendance.

“Cost-Effectiveness of a School-Based Obesity Prevention Program” by Li Yan Wang, Journal of School Health, December 2008, Volume 78, Number 12, pps. 619-624.

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