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An Intervention to Increase Physical Activity Among Low-Income Adolescents through Afterschool Programs that Address Social Factors

Over one-third of youth are considered overweight or obese, with minority and low-income youth at greatest risk for obesity and related diseases. Increasing physical activity levels has been shown to positively impact youth weight status, cardiorespiratory fitness, metabolic health, and body composition. A recent study, co-funded by NINR and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, tested a physical activity intervention through a randomized controlled trial among low-income middle school students in afterschool programs. The intervention added "Get-to-Know-You" sessions and socially-oriented physical activity sessions designed to address the social developmental needs of early adolescents (e.g., fostering friendships, group belonging, and social skills), to existing afterschool programs. Analysis of the program showed almost one hour of additional weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in those in the intervention arm of the study. The results provide support for physical activity interventions to incorporate social factors in programs for underserved youth and can inform future school-based health initiatives.

Zarrett N, Law LH, Wilson DK, Abraczinskas M, Taylor S, Cook BS, Roberts A. Connect through PLAY: a randomized-controlled trial in afterschool programs to increase adolescents' physical activity. J Behav Med. 2021 Jun;44(3):379-391. doi: 10.1007/s10865-021-00206-0. Epub 2021 Mar 7. PMID: 33677766