Participation in Extracurricular Physical Activity Programs at Middle Schools. (Research Note-Pedagogy)

Article excerpt

Key words: adolescents, after school, exercise, play

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The present study evaluated structured, on-campus extracurricular activities at 24 middle schools over a 5-month period. Results showed that schools offered activity programs an average of 3.1 times per week, each lasting approximately 75.4 min Interscholastic programs provided more hours of activity per week than intramurals, clubs, or other programs. Activity programs were primarily offered after school (69.6%) to all grades (84.2%) but accommodated only 5.5% of the daily school attendance. Boys and girls participated in programs at similar rates except for intramurals, which attracted more boys than girls per session. Student school physical activity levels could be improved by increasing the participation, duration, and frequency of existing programs and by implementing programs before school and at lunchtime.

There are various guidelines for the amounts of physical activity needed to reduce health risks in young people. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1996) states an objective of increasing the proportion of people age 6 years and older who exercise regularly, preferably daily, in light-to-moderate levels of physical activity for at least 30 min. It has been further recommended that "adolescents engage in three or more sessions per week of activities that last 20 mm or more at a time and that require moderate-to-vigorous levels of exertion" (Sallis & Patrick, 1994, p. 308). The Council for Physical Education of Children (Corbin & Pangrazi, 1998) and the Health Education Authority of the United Kingdom (Biddle, Sallis, & Cavill, 1998) advise that young people should have at least 30-60 mm of physical activity every day. Enjoyable activities involving the use of all muscle groups are preferred, with an emphasis on incorporating physical activity into children's lifestyles on a daily basis (Sallis & Patrick, 1994).

In school, most children are required to participate in physical education classes (Pate et al., 1995), but the amount of moderate and vigorous physical activity students receive during physical education falls short of national recommendations (McKenzie et al., 1995; Simons-Morton, Taylor, Snider, Huang & Fulton, 1994). For example, the average proportion of class time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) observed in physical education classes in selected middle schools was 16% (Simons-Morton et al., 1994). Moreover, none of these schools met the guideline of 50% or more of class time spent in MVPA (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1991). Because physical education cannot provide all the recommended amounts of moderate and vigorous physical activity, other sources of youth physical activity should be identified and evaluated (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1997).

Physical activity in and outside physical education class has been assessed to give a more complete view of adolescents' physical activity habits (Myers, Strikmiller, Webber, & Berenson, 1996; Pate, Long, & Heath, 1994; Ross, Dotson, Gilbert, & Katz, 1985). The Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that only about two thirds of boys and half of girls engaged in MVPA 3 or more days per week (Pate et al., 1994). Ross et al. (1985) and Pate et al. (1994) found that about 80% of all youth physical activity occurred outside of physical education. Some nonphysical education activity is done off-campus and some on school grounds. Little is known about the nonphysical education activity on middle school campuses. An evaluation of extracurricular campus programs would provide useful information regarding the school's role in providing physical activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends efforts that provide extracurricular activities to meet the needs and interests of all students (CDC, 1997). The importance of school-sponsored programs lies in their on-campus accessibility and the opportunities they provide for involvement by all interested students. …