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Choosing Alternatives to Dodgeball for After School

The Ohio Afterschool Network and the Ohio health department have teamed up on a guide on how best to incorporate physical activity into after-school programs to curb childhood-obesity rates.

These activities should not look like your typical dodgeball game, the report says.

Instead, the guide includes a list of 11 main recommendations for programs along with tips and strategies for implementing them. A section on resources that after-school programs can access for further advice is also included. Children should be active at least 60 minutes a day, it says, with a decent percentage of the activity being strenuous.

According to the network, more than a third of all Ohio 3rd graders are overweight and/or obese. Children are also becoming less active, it reports, due to time spent in front of computers and televisions and reductions in physically active classes/periods in school. An article in The New York Times last month also reported that a number of schools are using their recess periods for extra class time. Others have reported reductions to recess or physical-fitness blocks due to school budget cuts.

The guide says that after-school programs could be a solution to alleviating some of these issues, by providing a good venue for more physical activity. Community partnerships with providers and joint use of space with locales could be helpful in this process, they say.

The main recommendations for after-school programs are:
1. Ensure all children can participate in the physical activities and feel successful doing so.
2. Provide moderate to vigorous activities that contribute to the 60 minutes a day kids need.
3. Plan physical activities as part of the after-school programs and use these activities to enhance learning (teach algebra with basketball statistics, etc.).
4. Make sure the activities are designed with the child in mind and are relevant and age appropriate.
5. Train staff accordingly so they are well equipped to lead activities.
6. Have small student-to-staff ratios for activities; a 15-1 ratio is suggested.
7. Have a supportive administrative staff that promotes incorporation of physical activities into the program.
8. Continue to regularly assess these activities and their impact on students.
9. Ensure the space used is safe and age appropriate.
10. Ensure the equipment is safe and age appropriate.
11. Build strong connections with parents, communities, and schools.

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