Professional Development

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Want Healthier Programs? It Starts with You!

The health and wellness of our children and youth are of paramount importance in building our nation's shared prosperity.

Afterschool programs provide opportunities for young people to learn about and practice healthy eating and to participate in physical activity. Adults like you—our nation's afterschool professionals and leaders—are key players in the social and program supports needed to provide these opportunities and teach healthy habits.

According to the recent Associations Now article "Why Doing Wellness Leads to Doing Well," physical activity and healthful food and beverage options at events is a recipe for satisfied and focused participants. Here's what experts in healthy out-of-school time say.

"Offering healthy foods and physical activity at events is a great way to make sure health and wellness stay at the forefront of people's minds. If we want to create a culture of health, having access to healthier options must be the rule and not the exception. Often when we attend events, especially if they take us away from home for a few days, it can be hard to stay on the healthy track. But if physical activity is encouraged and healthier foods are served, participants are able to make healthy choices even when their normal routines are interrupted. Having healthier options at events helps participants realize that being healthy isn't something you escape; it's part of your lifestyle."
—Tierney Lloyd, MPH, Director of Health & Wellness Initiatives, Afterschool Alliance.

"Recognizing that we are all on our own individual health journeys, we want to ensure that we can help make nutritious options available and limit less-nutritious options, as it's not always easy to choose the healthy option. In addition, due to the largely sedentary nature of our work, it is important to encourage and model physical activity opportunities throughout meetings and events."
—Lauren A. Marciszyn, RD, LDN, Manager, Capacity Building for Evidence-Based Programs, YMCA of the USA

"Healthy foods keep participants satisfied longer, which means they won't have the need to skip out on sessions to go get snacks. Those foods will also fuel individuals to stay more focused and present during sessions. Adding physical activity options will also keep participants more engaged and focused."
—Annessa Bontrager, MS, EdD Candidate and Manager, Healthy Out-of-School Time, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

NAA is committed to supporting the adults who help young people eat healthy and move more. The recommendations in the NAA Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards for Out-of-School Time are also beneficial for adults. That's why our annual convention is designed intentionally as a healthy environment with plenty of opportunities participants to engage in healthy practices.

Here's what participants from past conventions say.

"The first thing I noticed was the water bottle in my conference bag! I immediately thought, 'Yep, this is going to be a conference where I don't have to hunt to find water; I won't have to jeopardize my daily practice of making sure I get enough H2O.' I appreciated the encouragement to drink water and the accessibility of water in the meeting rooms. I also enjoyed the physical activity breaks during sessions. Last but not least, I am always appreciative of a conference hotel that has a nice gym. I wasn't able to make any excuses to break from my normal healthy routines."

"To set up my learning experience during convention days, I enjoyed starting off with NAA's early morning yoga and fitness activities. I had the privilege of leading the NAA running group during the last convention. Over 25 attendees were able to successfully run/walk three miles, make new friends and gain plenty of endorphins to start their morning off right! Thank you to NAA for thinking about the whole body experience."

"I had the pleasure of leading a morning workout energizer with 15 to 20 participants. This was a great way to set our intention for the day, get a great workout in, learn some new moves, and network with colleagues by sharing sweaty high-fives!"

Healthy eating and physical activity start with you—and we're here to help!

Participants who register for NAA18 can expect:

  • A variety of formal and informal physical activity options, including group fitness opportunities every morning and access to the hotel's 24-hour fitness center.
  • Healthy food and beverage options. Meals and snacks include limited sugary food and drinks, plus vegetarian options. Water will be provided throughout the convention location.
  • Opportunities to move during educational sessions. In addition to the sessions focused on physical activity, all presenters are encouraged to integrate movement into their sessions.

Learn more and register for NAA18 here.

Written by Heidi Ham, NAA's VP of Programs and Strategy. Connect with Heidi via twitter @ham_heidi.