Faculty Articles

Evidence-based fitness promotion in an afterschool setting: Implementation fidelity and its policy implications

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New Directions for Youth Development



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Little is known about how the adoption of evidence-based physical activity (PA) curricula by out-of-school time (OST) programs affects children's physical fitness, and there are no clear guidelines of what constitutes reasonable gains given the types of PA instruction currently offered in these programs. Using a three-wave, quasi-experimental, naturalistic observation design, this study evaluated the implementation of an evidence-based PA instruction curriculum (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids [SPARK]) and examined whether the potential health benefits of evidence-based PA instruction can be replicated in this context when compared to OST programs that do not use evidence-based PA curricula. Quality of PA instruction and SPARK implementation fidelity were also assessed. Results indicated that children in the non-evidence-based/standard PA instruction programs engaged in higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and showed greater improvements in fitness levels over time. The findings from this chapter suggest that while it is generally accepted that evidence-based approaches yield higher levels of PA when implemented by researchers under controlled conditions, findings are inconsistent when evidence-based PA instruction is implemented in the field, under presumably less controlled conditions. It appears that when it comes to PA instruction in afterschool, either less structured activities or well-implemented evidence-based practices could be the key to promoting higher PA levels and greater health and fitness for school-aged children.



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