Out of School Time
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Afterschool and other out-of-school-time programs generally provide safe, supportive settings that can broaden healthy eating and physical activity opportunities for children and youth and reinforce lessons and behaviors modeled during the standard school day. Programs typically extend from 3 to 6 p.m., a time of day when children and youth are likely to be sedentary (e.g., watch TV, play video or computer games, or chat online) or can run afoul of parental or societal expectations, including criminal conduct.
Afterschool programs often provide children and youth with physical activity options and reach students at particularly vulnerable ages when they are forming lifestyle behavior patterns that can extend into adulthood. Notably, although research shows that regular exercise and participation in sports help children maintain a healthy body weight, enhance self-confidence and offer valuable guidance, a quarter of youth reported in 2002 that they get in no physical activity during their free time.
Afterschool programs have considerable potential for expanding the reach of relevant health promotion policies and strategies to children and youth, including students most at risk for becoming overweight, among these, minorities and low-income children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that communities increase opportunities for extracurricular physical activity as one of three school-based strategies for increasing children’s level of physical activity and improving other obesity-related outcomes.
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Incorporating healthy food and active play into community- and school-based out-of-school time (OST) programs is part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent childhood obesity and model lifelong healthy behaviors. The Center has developed this set of resources to advance these goals.