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Children spend less time on physical activity, and free play is replaced by adult-led programs that do not always give priority to getting children active.

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There is a generational change in children after school. Gone are the days when they got off the bus, left their school bags at the back door, and played outside with friends. Today most children go straight from class to postgraduate program and then take time for dinner.

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Coincidentally, there has been a change in the number of minutes children play during the day. In Canada, only 39 percent of five- to 17-year-olds spend the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day. Given the stability of a regular school day, the post-school period is a great opportunity to play a greater role in children’s lives. But according to ParticipACTION, a national nonprofit organization that promotes healthy living and fitness, children average 14 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.

These statistics are not limited to Canada. Children spend less time in physical activity, and free play is often replaced by adult-led programs. Getting kids moving . To learn more about what children do between school time and when they get up to go home; Researchers from Wollongong University in Australia In one session, 89 post-school programs offered children with a speedometer to monitor their activities. During the two consecutive days between March 2018 and April 2019, observers visited after-school programs to observe the children’s activities.

Viewers coded the activity as free play (without staff input or direction), organized play (governed by law and adults), or enrichment (non-physical activities such as reading, crafts, or homework). They included notes on staff guidance, children’s participation, time spent on the activity, and whether the activity was included or excluded.

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Only 26 percent of the 4,408 children in the study were active for 30 minutes or more.

“We found that children spent an average of 22 minutes exercising moderately; boys were moderately to moderately active than girls,” the researchers said.

Australia is not alone in investigating how many children move after school. Analysis of data from similar studies shows that children in after-school programs spend 54.5 minutes per session.

How do after-school programs make room for more active play?

According to Australian study observers, children are six times more likely to accumulate 30 minutes of active play when they are left to their own devices and participate in a staff-led game.

“In light of the nature of free play, not all children choose to participate in active play at this time, so it may be important to include organized activities in places (after school) to increase participation; this can involve a wide range of children, especially girls,” the researchers said.

Increasing opportunities for children to be active should be given special attention when designing after-school programs. The amount of time spent explaining and organizing activities means that children spend their time moving. The same goes for activities that involve taking turns or eliminating “out” children.

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“Our results show that children are less likely to have moderate to vigorous physical activity for 30 minutes, when organized games include avoidance components,” he said.

Considering the increasing inconsistent lifestyles not only for children but also for their parents, it requires a planned and continuous effort to increase active participation – especially children who are not confident in their ability to move. Additional free play and adult-led activities designed to engage and keep children active have the potential to increase the number of children exercising for the recommended 60 minutes per day.

But in addition to following guidelines designed to improve the health of overweight and obese children, encouraging them to play actively allows them to examine their physical limitations, push boundaries, and become more confident in their athletic abilities. Most importantly, an active after-school program allows children to sit after the school day and recharge their rechargeable batteries.

Children are not meant to be seated, but they often lack the opportunity to participate in unauthorized or unorganized, high-intensity active play. The after-school program recognizes the need for children to be active, in any form, shape or form, and to create healthy habits. Active children sleep better, eat better and can better focus on their homework – exactly what they need to do with their right foot to start the next day.

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