Effect of a park-based after-school program on participant obesity-related health outcomes

Sarah E. Messiah, Allison Diego, Jack Kardys, Kevin Kirwin, Eric Hanson, Renae Nottage, Shawn Ramirez, Kristopher L. Arheart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of a structured after-school program housed in a large county parks system on participant health and wellness outcomes. Design. Longitudinal cohort study over one school year (fall 2011-spring 2012). Setting. A total of 23 county parks in Florida. Subjects. Children ages 5 to 16 (N=349, 55% non-Hispanic black, 40% Hispanic, mean age 8.9 years). Intervention. An after-school program called Fit-2-Play that integrates daily standardized physical activity and health and wellness education components. Measures. Preintervention (August/September 2011) and postintervention (May/June 2012) anthropometric, systolic/diastolic blood pressure, fitness, and health and wellness knowledge measurements were collected. Analysis. Comparison of pre-post outcome measure means were assessed via general linear mixed models for normal-weight (body mass index [BMI] ,85th percentile for age and sex) and overweight/obese (BMI ≥85th percentile for age and sex) participants. Results. The overweight/obese group significantly decreased their mean (1) BMI z score (2.0 to 1.8, p < .01) and (2) subscapular skinfold measurements (19.4 to 17.5 mm, p < .01) and increased (1) mean laps on the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run test (10.8 to 12.5, p=.04) and (2) percentage with normal systolic blood pressure (58.1% to 71.0%, p =.03) from pretest to posttest. On average, participants significantly improved their health and wellness knowledge over the school year (p < .01). Normal-weight participants maintained healthy BMI ranges and significantly increased fitness levels. Conclusion. Findings suggest that the Fit-2-Play after-school programs can be a significant resource for combating childhood obesity and instilling positive physical health in children, particularly among ethnic and socioeconomically diverse communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-225
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Fitness
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Physical Activity
  • Prevention
  • Prevention Research
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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