Health topic: Physical Activity Health Promotion

Keep it active after school

What's it about?

The after-school hours have incredible potential when it comes to physical activity. But when school's out, some kids and teens need a little nudge to keep their bodies moving. 

This strategy is about opening up opportunities for physical activity after school hours. It taps into ways that educators can influence and support active living in childcare and community settings, and at home.  


What's involved?

Here are some tangible ways that schools can help students stay active after school. With attention to health measures in schools, they're feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Set clear expectations for out-of-school care programs

After-school childcare programs operating on school property should meet or exceed provincial guidelines for physical activity. They should:

  • Offer students the chance to get at least 30 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, appropriate for their age and developmental ability.

  • Serve all children and teens, including those at risk of being inactive (like girls, older teens, students with a disability, or those with greater financial need).

  • Aim for quality programming, led by skilled and trained staff and done in partnership with families and communities. Review it for satisfaction and improvement.
  • Consider limits on the use of digital devices (like cell phones, tablets, and computers) during program hours.

Be sure that physical activity standards apply to all programs operating at school, like morning childcare or summer programs. Consistent standards are easier for students and families to understand and follow.


Make the most of community resources

Engage with students to understand the factors that prevent them from being physically active after school and on the weekends, and work together to eliminate them. Here are some great community-based solutions:

  • Partner with local sport and recreation organizations to give students access to nearby facilities and programs, at little or no cost. Consider both indoor and outdoor locations like nearby gyms, dance studios, rinks, baseball diamonds, and basketball courts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these facilities are required to follow current public health guidelines for sport, physical activity, and recreation.
  • Find out if your school authority or school has a formal community use agreement to facilitate public use of school spaces (like gyms and multi-purpose rooms) in non-school hours. Make sure that community groups understand how they can take part, and are aware of current public health guidelines for sport, physical activity, and recreation.
  • Learn more about the Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program. Now in 35 Alberta schools, it's an after-school program delivered by Indigenous high school mentors for younger students. The program involves healthy eating and vigorous-intensity physical activity, with emphasis on Mino-Bimaadiziwin/miyo-pimâtisiwin (“living in a good way”).
  • As a school community, support local revitalization projects for outdoor green spaces like playgrounds, parks, and nature trails. Green spaces are shown to get people moving more, sitting less, and playing longer. If you can, visit these spaces during instructional time so that students have a chance to explore.


Help families get active

Families are a child’s first teacher. Help parents and other caregivers to support physical activity at home—sometimes all they need is an idea or an invitation. Here are some tips for your school e-newsletter, video, or blog:

  • Offer strategies for limiting sedentary screen time at home, like device-free meals, unplugging at certain days or times, or setting up family media agreements.
  • Suggest a healthy balance between structured activities and unstructured play and free time after school.
  • Encourage families to let their kids and teens choose physical activities that suit their interests, and that they enjoy.
  • Recommend for families to set goals, like trying a new outdoor sport or a new method of active travel.


    How it connects

    What happens outside of school is just as important as what happens at school! When students are active after school hours, they're better positioned for a balanced 24-hour day.

    This strategy is part of a whole school approach to physical activity, beyond the school day itself. It involves all four components of the comprehensive school health framework.

    You might also like these related topics:



    After school safety check
    PHE Canada

    Alberta active after school
    Ever Active Schools and partners

    Thrive outside: Resources for educators
    Child & Nature Alliance of Canada


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