After-school programs, in addition to school physical education classes, may be one answer to reducing obesity in teenage girls, says a new study.
The middle school years is the time when kids begin to spend less time in physical activity, a growing concern as youth obesity rates rise.
The just-released results of the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls (TAAG) showed that moderate to vigorous after-school physical activity, in programs that can range from hip hop dancing to surfing, can modestly increase the amount of physical activity for young teenage girls, to the point that it could prevent excess weight gain of about two pounds per year.
If sustained, that extra activity could prevent a girl from becoming overweight as a teenager or adult.
Deborah Young, professor and interim chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in the University of Maryland, College Park, School of Public Health, was a researcher on the TAAG study.
The TAAG study found that programs which linked schools in six geographic regions of the U.S. with community partners (such as the YMCA or YWCA, local health clubs, and community recreation centers) increased time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity among the middle-school female students by about two minutes per day, or 80 calories a week.
This finding occurred after three years of the intervention, but not after two years.
TAAG showed a reduction of 8.2 minutes of sedentary behavior in girls in the intervention schools.
Furthermore, the best results were seen in programs offered between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays, which suggest that after-school programs are more effective than programs offered at other times, such as morning weekdays and weekends.
The study results, say the authors, support the need for schools and community programs to work together to provide opportunities for physical activity programs in after-school settings.
The study is published in the article, "Promoting Physical Activity in Middle School Girls," in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.