4 Tips To Creating A Successful Physical Activity Program In Your After School Program

Beth Wendt, Director of Educcation – GenMove USA

We have all heard the statistics, read guidelines and recommendations, and know the importance of incorporating physical activity and healthy living for our staff and students, but what resources and strategies are out there to help us incorporate successful physical activity that will have a meaningful impact?


 “According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day to stay healthy.  Regular physical activity enhances important skills, like concentration and problem solving, which have been shown to improve academic performance.  However, kids today are the most sedentary generation in America’s history. Only 1 in 3 children is active on a daily basis and only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools and 2% of high schools offer daily P.E. Meanwhile, only 9 states require recess in elementary schools,” a statement released by the White House this past February highlighted the importance of physical activity for our youth. Because of the reality of statistics like this, the National After School Association and many of our states have adopted standards for physical activity for part-day programs. These standards and guidelines call for at least 30 minutes of the day to be dedicated physical activity. Each year, more and more studies come out supporting the evidence that physical activity can increase academic success, effect cognitive & social skills, and boost mood or mental health.

We have all heard the statistics, read guidelines and recommendations, and see the extreme importance of incorporating physical activity and healthy lifestyles for our staff and students, but what resources and strategies are out there to help us incorporate successful physical activity that will have a meaningful impact? Over the last 8 years, we (GenMove USA) have worked with over 1500 After School Day providers including many 21st CCLC Programs to help get kids active, healthy, and learning!  I often hear the following key issues that after school programs face when trying to offer quality physical activity programs: 

1) No one on my staff is trained to lead quality physical activities.

2) I have very limited space and equipment resources to conduct a variety activities that get all my students engaged and participating.

3) I want our program to concentrate on common core academics, STEM, and project based learning, where do I find time to incorporate physical activity?

4) How do I include my students with special needs into physical activities?

Many after school programs face the same problems when approaching physical activity. We’ve put together some key pointers for success in offering physical activity and giving your students the opportunity to live healthy, active lifestyles!

TRAIN STAFF:  One of the biggest problems after school programs face when wanting to integrate physical activity into their programs is getting staff motivated to conduct and teach physical fitness and recreation games. Physical activities can be fun and engaging for both the staff and students. Often we rely on the same traditional sports or fitness activities such as basketball, dodge ball, etc. When we limit our activities and instruction, we decrease the opportunity for all the youth in our programs to want to participate and have success in physical activity. One of the simple keys to get your staff motivated in teaching meaningful and successful physical activity is Professional Development. GenMove USA and other physical activity education companies offer specialized staff training workshops to ensure that your staff has success in delivering fun, engaging, physical activities that hit national standards for physical education and health! These trainings can also help create stronger mentors and physical activity leaders within your program. GenMove trainers can cover topics from games and activities appropriate to the ages of your program, how to best utilize indoor or outdoor space, special needs and inclusion activities, physically active-project based academic learning, equipment use, and assessment tools and ideas in a half-day training session.  Staff trainings are a great resource for a fun way to jump start a sustainable physical activity program for your after school program.

INVEST IN VERSATILE EQUIPMENT: Often, the number one complaints heard from after school providers are limited space and equipment use.  “One day my activity space is a lunchroom, the next a field, and sometimes a classroom, how do I offer successful physical activity without adequate space? The answer: make sure you have versatile equipment to use in your program! Look for equipment and products that you can use to teach a large variety of physical activities and group recreation games, can be utilized and engaging for all age groups and ability levels, and most importantly can be portable to different settings and easily stored. We work to create equipment and activity guide packages that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of after school programs. The MultiGoal Activity Pack is a great example of equipment designed to be used in an after school environment. It gives staff the easy to use tools to start incorporating over 75 group games and activities that are proven to increase Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity and introduce new sports skills to all students. Picking the right equipment to use can level the playing field so that everyone is excited to get involved in physical activity!

ENGAGE ALL LEARNERS:  We know that NAA standards call for activities that include all children in the program, including children with special needs.  But how do we conduct physical activities that include students with special needs into group physical activities? Find group physical activities that concentrate on developing each person’s individual skill through a group game or activity. By doing this, you are engaging all your students to work on developing there skills at their ability level, while still giving them the social and cognitive benefits of group and team physical activity.  GenMove calls this Simplexity, a framework that affords an individualized approach that can meet the wide variety of skill levels that can be encountered in the unique attributes of all learners. They offer programs and equipment that support fine & gross motor skills development, social and group skills development, stimulates and activates the brain, to ensure the success of ALL learners in physical and recreational activities. The concept may seem like a big undertaking, but the activities are designed to be easy for all staff to conduct and fun for all ages to participate in.

ACTIVE PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to teach common-core academics through what GenMove considers “Active” project based learning. If you are worried about your program taking time out of common-core academics and STEM learning to get them physical active, you can accomplish both at the same time! Find programming books and activities, like GenMove’s After School Activity Book Incorporating STEM, that incorporate age appropriate STEM and academic learning through movement and activity. By incorporating programming books like this, your staff also has the opportunity to incorporate technology through computer and tablet accessible assessment worksheets that help youth process what they are learning during physical activity time.  By utilizing Active, Project Based Learning, we get students moving and active, activate their brains, and give them hands on opportunities for problem solving and learning, setting them up to lead healthy, productive lives!


Accomplishing a successful and meaningful physical and health activity program integration into your after school program can have a very strong impact on our youth’s health, academic, cognitive, and social & behavioral learning. Utilizing these tools can help accomplish a sustainable, impactful physical activity program for staff and students. We wish you all many hours of active fun, play and learning!