Kids' after-school activities are not so active

Kids after-school and lunch-time activities were studied in UniSA researchThe study of 10 to 14 year old school children during the 90-minute after-school period shows watching television is the most popular after-school activity, followed by being a passenger in a car or bus, playing computer games and doing homework.
Study author Rebecca Stanley, a PhD candidate from UniSA’s School of Health Sciences, says the results suggest children are more likely to be inactive during the after school period than at other parts of the day, making the timeframe a key target for promoting physical activity.
“An important finding to emerge from the data is the higher proportion of sedentary activities, in particular screen-based sedentary activities during the after school period in comparison to the lunchtime period,” Stanley says.
“The after school hours period potentially provides children with the freedom to choose how they use their time, away from parental curfews and school constraints, which lends itself to promotion of unstructured active play,” she says.
“However, for most kids screen time is the most popular activity.”
The study also ranked the most popular lunch-time activities, with sedentary past-times of eating and talking topping the list, followed by more physically demanding activities such as walking and playing ‘chasey’.
“Based on evidence showing that children who spend more time outdoors are more likely to accumulate larger quantities of physical activity, the lunchtime period could also be a critical window for physical activity promotion as children typically spend the majority of this period outdoors,” Stanley says.
Of the most prevalent lunchtime activities, 35 per cent were classified as sedentary and 65 per cent as moderate to vigorous physical activities. During the after school period, 57 per cent of the most prevalent activities were classified as sedentary and only 43 per cent as moderate to vigorous physical activities.
“We have found that children tend to engage in as much moderate to vigorous physical activity in the 45-minute
lunchtime break as they do in the 90-minute after-school period,” she says.
Stanley says it is important to encourage children to be active and to restrict their access to more sedentary pursuits.
“It has been found that specific types of activity have been associated with important health outcomes. For example, high levels of overall screen time have been found to be strongly related to poorer health status,” she says.
“Research has shown that children who report higher incidence of active play during the after school period are more active overall and active at a greater intensity than those who report fewer incidences of after school active play.
“Interventions during the lunchtime and particularly the after school periods should encourage active play and focus on restricting sedentary opportunities, which has found to dominate the after school period in this study and potentially reduce opportunities for more active pursuits.”
The study was recently published by Sports Medicine Australia in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.