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RTIPs Meet Up: Youth Fit 4 Life (YF4L)

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I am delighted to return to R2R to highlight Youth Fit 4 Life intervention which was recently added to the RTIPs repository!

About one-third of American children have an inappropriately high weight, and 6 in 10 children under the age of 12 complete insufficient amounts of physical activity. In adolescents, completion of recommended amounts of physical activity drops to 8%.

Youth Fit 4 Life (YF4L) is a 24-week after-school care-based physical activity and health behavior change protocol directly delivered by after-school counselors. It has also been applied in physical education classes and through community health departments. YF4L provides cardiovascular and strength activities along with an interactive, age-appropriate behavioral skills training component intended to increase free-time physical activity and nurture persistence. It encourages personal goal setting and the development of social support "teams" in regard to being more physically active and maintaining healthful eating. Guided by social cognitive theory, self-efficacy theory, and previous applied research results, its emphasis is on building self-efficacy through the use of newly taught self-regulatory skills to overcome barriers to those goals.
What aspects of the program can be adapted without it losing its effectiveness? 

The Primary Publication for Youth Fit 4 Life (YF4L) was of ages 9-12 years. However, there is also a YF4L curriculum for ages 5-8 that is listed as a Publication for Review. It was tested over 9 months. The protocol for both can easily be adapted for physical education, camp settings, or to supplement sport activities that might have considerable sedentary time (e.g., baseball). Great care for age-appropriateness was taken in the 3.5-year development of the YF4L so I would caution against its use with adolescents beyond 13-14, or prior to age 5.

Are there specific audiences (beyond those included in the research study) that you feel this program could be adapted for?  Any that it shouldn't be adapted for?

An implementation staff who have at least some interest in health and well-being is definitely favorable. Since this has not been the case for all interested in afterschool care employment, responsibilities for carefully administering YF4L should be included on a job description. Thus, related interview questions are also needed. Because of the protocol nature of YF4L, regular fidelity, or quality assurance, checks are built into the process and are required for successful implementation. That being said, a professional physical education staff is not needed for successful implementation.

What do you view as the facilitators to implementation?  What might be some challenges?

Regardless of venue, improvements in physical activity, overweight/obesity, and the diet are obvious outcome measures. The protocol’s theoretical foundation concentrates on facilitating self-efficacy through empowering an array of self-regulatory skills to overcome barriers to desirable behaviors. These should also be assessed, and used to evaluate the generalization of increased physical activity and healthy eating well-beyond the confines of the YF4L program. Our team will always offer help with an evaluation model – especially to support the requirements of a grant or the conditions of external support. 

What is your current research focus?

My current research program is focused on exercise adherence, the physical activity-mood change relationship and how that impacts body image and emotional eating, and the effects of exercise on maintained weight loss (through its associated psychosocial changes, rather than just caloric expenditure). Although my research program crosses most age groups, there is the consistent theme of empowering individuals with the self-regulatory skills needed to overcome commonly occurring barriers to maintenance. 

I would like to hear from you! 

Have you considered implementing physical activity programs in afterschool settings?

What has been your experience working with this population?