Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Action Adventure Time!

Developing healthy habits can be difficult at any age. And unfortunately many children develop unhealthy habits that complicate the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle when they are older. A school environment offers an opportunity to introduce healthy habits to children and provide direction that will set up a foundation for maintaining those habits through their adult life. And as being overweight or obese is negatively related to academic achievement and school attendance (Datar & Sturm, 2006; Strong et al., 2005), it is in a school’s best interest to use their resources to advocate fitness among their students. In developing an after-school program for overweight children in middle school, I utilized several strategies that will help students adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The name of this after-school program is “Action Adventure Time!” which is an allusion to the popular animated tv show on Cartoon Network called “Adventure Time.” As a lack of physical activity has been linked by the US Department of Health and Human Services to a number of major health problems (as cited in Gill & Williams, 2008, p. 148), the main goals of the program will be to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes and to promote health and well-being through physical activity. Most of the target population for this program are likely to be beginners when it comes to physical activity, so it’s important to start by disseminating information about the program and its benefits. Information about the program will be provided to parents and students in the form of fliers sent home with students, information meetings for both parents and students, and, if feasible, phone calls to parents. Presenting the information in a positive and welcoming manner can help ease some of the concerns of both parents and students and pique their interest in their program.

Once it starts, the program will continue with cognitive processes of behavior change which include increasing knowledge, becoming aware of risks, understanding benefits, and increasing opportunities to apply knowledge. These processes work well for people who are in either the precontemplative (do not intend to exercise within the next 6 months) stage or contemplative (intend to start exercising within the next 6 months) stage as defined by Marcus, Rossi, Selby, Niaura, & Abrams (as cited in Gill & Williams, 2008, p.155). Moving to the preparation stage where people are exercising, although not regularly (again defined by Marcus et al.) is the objective that must be reached first. An individualized plan with short-term, achievable goals for physical activity should be implemented for each child to boost their self-efficacy. The physical activity will start off slowly with basic stretching and aerobics in addition to sports-related activities. Frequent reinforcements in the form of praise, support from the other children in the program, and feedback on progress will be provided to all of the children. Additional support in the form of behavioral contracts, exercise cues, and positive self-talk may also be used to help students acquire exercise habits. As the students begin to progress, the amount of physical activity will gradually increase as will the intensity of the activities offered (i.e. running in place of walking).

As students move into the preparation stage, behavioral processes will be added to help them begin the transition to maintaining their exercise habits. Activities that can be performed at home will be added to student plans. Students will be encouraged to talk to each other outside of the program about their continued physical activity. Parents will be encouraged to reinforce good habits at home. Students will develop their own personal reward system to help themselves stay committed to their exercise habits. Relapse prevention will be discussed. This will help students move to the final stages described by Marcus et al.: action (exercising regularly for less than 6 months) and maintenance (exercising regularly for more than 6 months). The ultimate goal will be for students to participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day which is the recommended amount for the most health benefits in the dimensions of skeletal health, aerobic fitness, and muscular strength and endurance (Strong et al., 2005). This total will include recess time and school-based physical education as well as the activities developed in the after-school program.

In conclusion, the “Action Adventure Time!” after-school program can assist overweight youth to develop healthy habits by helping them to add more physical activities to their daily lives. This will improve not only their current health and well-being, but it will form the groundwork for future goal-setting and achievement.


Datar, A., & Sturm, R. (2006). Childhood overweight and elementary school
     outcomes. International Journal of Obesity, 30(9), 1449-1460.

Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise
     (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Strong, W. B., Malina, R. M., Blimkie, C. J. R., Daniels, S. R., Dishman, R. K.,
     Gutin, B., ... Trudeau, F. (2005). Evidence based physical activity for 
     school-age youth. The Journal of Pediatrics, 146, 732 – 737.


  1. Very nice. I really enjoyed the way you broke each phase down to allow everyone to understand what your thought process was throughout the case study. Also, your focus wasnt only on the development of their present state of physical activity, but also the development to form a base or groundwork to assist them in future goal-setting and achievements directed towards physical activity.

  2. I enjoyed the program that you have created to target obesity and overweight in the schools. It is definitely important to provide knowledge and cognitive approaches in this program before jumping right into physical activities. I am investigating the TTM stages of change for my thesis, so that was the approach I would use as well. In regards to relapse, I think what we mentioned in class is important. When people weight the pros and cons of exercise, the cons are OF exercising, not of NOT exercising. It may be important to have participants write out pros and cons throughout the program to see transitions and if they balance with their changes of exercise stages. Good suggestions!