Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Promoting Physical Activity

Our urban community public school has just received a grant that is going to allow our students to participate in an after school program.  The objective for this program is to increase physical activity among overweight middle school students and in turn reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as promote a healthy lifestyle. 
                Physical inactivity is a major crisis around the world resulting in overweight and obesity problems including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, and anxiety (Gill & Williams, 2008).  This widespread epidemic needs to be brought to an end.  The best way of preventing these complications related with a sedentary routine is to introduce, model, and reinforce healthy behaviors and lifestyles during early childhood (Caprio, 2006).  Not only has it been recommended to remove vending machines for candy and soda within schools (Cawley, 2006), but it is also apparent that we as adults need to encourage and promote physical activity throughout everyday life with our children and adolescence. 
                This specific after school program is going to follow the transtheoretical model researched by Prochaska and DiClemente (1983).  This model allows us to determine the relationship between individual readiness and exercise behavior (Gill & Williams, 2008).  The students participating in this program are not all going to be at the same level of readiness.  Most will either be in the precontemplation or contemplation phases.  It is our duty to increase their ability to participate in physical activity and progress them through each of the stages up to maintenance where they will eventually be able to lead a healthy lifestyle on their own. 
                Our program is going to run immediately following school, which has been researched to show that this is the most likely time for children to be most sedentary if they are not given active options.  It is geared towards middle school in order to teach healthy patterns during the developmental stage so they can form and carry on traits into adulthood.  Snacks and meals will be provided to serve as healthy dietary habits that will also be continued on into their future lifestyles.  Many physical activities will be applied in order to help children to maintain healthy body weights, increase self confidence, and give a sense of belonging in order to decrease feelings of hopelessness and depression (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 2003).
                This year long program will not only allow for the children to increase their physical activity but will also improve their knowledge about healthy and active lifestyles.  Informational newsletters will be sent home with the kids to allow for the parents to become involved in encouraging healthy choices at home as well.  As suggested by Gill and Williams (2008), it is vital to be sure the different stages of readiness are being addressed in this program. 
The kids that fall into the categories of precontemplation and contemplation will be taken through cognitive processes.  This involves being informed of all of the different ways of increasing physical activity, promoting good nutrition, and also engaging families and parents to encourage healthy lifestyles at home.  This will allow for exercise adherence and physical activity motivation.  It is here where we will use strategies such as goal setting, positive self-talk, and association-dissociation as part of this particular part of the program. 
Once they have moved on into the preparation, action, and maintenance phases we are able to incorporate more behavioral processes.  As stated in Gill and Williams (2008), Martin and Dubbert (1984) provide information suggesting behavioral strategies.  During the preparation and action phases, we will use strategies that include shaping long-term exercise habits, reinforcement through social support, using cues in acquiring a habit, and writing up a behavioral contract.  Finally, during the maintenance phase we will be able to use generalization training, gradually take back on reinforcement, they will be able to self-monitor and self-evaluate, as well as be able to advocate relapse-prevention training. 
Medical literature shows that 20% of children and adolescence in the United States are overweight or obese (Kottke & Hoffman, 2003).  This is a result of unhealthy acts and leading sedentary lifestyles.  Children need to be encouraged through after school programs to be able to make the healthy decisions through nutrition and promote physically active lifestyles.  With the help of parents, the community and the environment, we will be able to put a stop to this tragic epidemic that has been taken widespread across the world and to have hope for our future populations. 
Caprio, Sonia. (2006). Treating child obesity and associated medical conditions. The Future of Children, 16, 1, pp. 209-224. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/3556557
Cawley, John. (2006). Markets and childhood obesity policy. The Future of Children, 16, 1, 69-88. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/3556551
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003). Physical activity levels among children aged 9-13 years: United States, 2002.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 52: 785-788. Retrieved from http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/afterschool/fitness_nutrition.pdf
Gill, D., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise. pp. 147-159. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Kottke, T.E., Wu, L., & Hoffman, R.S. (2003). Economic and psychological implications of the obesity epidemic. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 78: 92-94. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/78/1/92.full


  1. The importance of encouraging healthy lifestyles at home is crucial to this process. This is one area that work needs to continue.

  2. Chelsea,
    I thought your response was very thorough and well thought out. I also followed the general outline of the transtheoretical as it can easily and effectively be applied to this type of situation. I like your idea of sending out newsletters in order to keep educating and keep the children motivated. Like Dr. Waldron noted, a healthy lifestyle at home is extremely important and the newsletter may help bring the cause right to the children's living room. Great response!