Afterschool Research: Health & Wellness

Keeping kids active, encouraging a healthy lifestyle

Afterschool programs are helping young people get enough physical activity and providing nutritious snacks.

Close to 16 percent of U.S. children ages 6-19 are overweight, and another 15 percent are at risk of becoming overweight. Additionally, in 2012 more than 1 in 5 children under the age of 18 lived in poverty and were exposed to hunger. This section covers the variety of ways afterschool programs canand doplay an important role in promoting healthy lifestyles for youth. 

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A Big-Picture Approach to Wellness: Afterschool Supporting Strong Bodies and Minds (September 2018)

A comprehensive approach to wellness—which includes healthy eating and physical activity and extends to additional aspects of health, such as social and emotional skills and competencies—can provide the necessary supports for healthy children grow into healthy adults. This issue brief details the national public health issues children are facing today and discusses the afterschool field’s ability to provide a place where children feel safe, are surrounded by supportive mentors, have access to nutritious foods, are able to be active, can form relationships with their peers, learn how to set positive goals for themselves, and feel empowered to take charge of their lives. Accompanying this brief are five in-depth afterschool program profiles that highlight the different roles programs play to support their students’ physical and social and emotional health:

Health and Wellness

Featured Summary

Back to School in the Time of COVID-19 – Wave 3 (November 2020)

Eight months into COVID-19, three key trends are shaping the landscape of afterschool programs across the nation. First, many more afterschool programs are operating now than were in the spring and summer. Second, programs are able to serve only about half as many students as they supported before the pandemic. Third, the children being left behind are disproportionately those from low-income families. These findings are documented in the brief, Back to School in the Time of COVID-19, based on the third in a series of surveys of afterschool program providers to monitor the state of the afterschool field. The Wave 3 provider survey of 1,445 program providers, was conducted between September 28 and October 27, and represents more than 7,300 program sites.

Surveys COVID-19


Active Hours Afterschool: Childhood Obesity Prevention and Afterschool Programs (2006)

The obesity crisis in America has become so dire that health experts warn this generation of children may be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. This brief addresses the current epidemic of childhood obesity, its health and economic costs, and how after afterschool can play a role in combating childhood obesity by offering healthy snacks and encouraging physical activity in a safe and educational environment.


Afterschool and Healthy Youth (2004)

Since childhood obesity was declared a national epidemic in 2002, much attention has been focused on the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition. This brief addresses how afterschool programs are promoting healthy lifestyles and positive attitudes by offering healthy snacks, physical activity, and health education in the curriculum.


Afterschool and Pregnancy Prevention (2002)

Though teen pregnancy rates in the United States have dropped within the past decade, the teen birth rate in the U.S. is still higher than any other developed nation. This brief explains how a safe environment, positive role models, decision making skills, and health education offered by afterschool programs can aid in teenage pregnancy prevention.


Afterschool Meals

In 2012, 22 percent of children under the age of 18 lived in poverty and were exposed to hunger. Afterschool meals are an effective way to reduce childhood hunger and promote a healthy childhood weight. This resource provides materials on afterschool and summer meals as well as information about nutrition guidelines.

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Afterschool: Key to Health and Wellness for Pre-teens and Teens (2010)

The Afterschool Alliance, in partnership with MetLife Foundation, is proud to present the third of four issue briefs in this series examining critical issues facing middle school youth and the vital role afterschool programs play in addressing these issues. This brief addresses the innumerable health issues facing middle school students, and shows how afterschool programs can provide a place for youth to be physically active and teach them to make healthy choices.


Kids on the Move: Afterschool Programs Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (March 2015)

This report discusses the current state of healthy eating and physical activity in afterschool, identifies areas for improvement, and provides recommendations moving forward. Kids on the Move is presented as part of the third edition of America After 3PM, which spans a decade of household survey data chronicling how children spend the hours between 3 and 6 p.m.

Health and Wellness

Executive Summary

Summer Learning Programs Nourish Kids Bodies and Minds (2013)

Not only do summer learning programs keep kids safe and engaged in academically enriching activities that help stem the "summer slide," they also help parents ensure their kids are getting nutritious food while school's out. This fact sheet highlights the important role summer learning programs play in feeding high-needs children, addresses the challenges programs face in providing a summer meal and outlines the benefits of programs’ participation in the USDA Summer Food Service Program.