Most intervention programs targeting health and fitness are offered either during or after school. Because of limited time, fewer programs are implemented during the summer months. This can have a negative effect on physical and mental health in youth.Therefore, we wanted to examine whether a 6-week translational health in nutrition and kinesiology (THINK) summer program could improve physical fitness (PF), social emotional learning (SEL), and college readiness (CR).
A diverse group of 36 participants (69.4% Hispanic, 13.8% Black, 13.8% Asian, and 2.7% White) 11-13 years old enrolled in the THINK program. Aerobic fitness (AF) was measured using the Pacer test. Adiposity was measured using the InBody 520. SEL was measured using The Positive Youth Inventory. Nutrition habits were measured using the Adolescent Food Habits Checklist. CR was assessed using the College and Career Readiness Survey. Means, standard errors, and Pearson correlations were evaluated for all dependent variables. A paired sample t-test was performed to determine differences over time and Pearson correlations were performed to determine significant relationships among all dependent variables.
Significant improvements were found in AF (Ẋ=2.806±3.592; p<0.001) and SEL (Ẋ=.087±.162; p=.003) as a result of the program. There was also a trend towards significant improvements in nutrition habits after the program (Ẋ=1.322±4.140; p=.064). Unexpectedly, CR decreased from pre to post-testing (Ẋ=.159±.341; p=.008). AF and adiposity were inversely related in both pre and post-testing (p<0.001).
An intervention targeting physical and mental health can promote significant improvements in AF, adiposity, and SEL in as little as 6 weeks. However, emphasis on college preparation in children as young as 11-13 years may be too early and overwhelming for youth at this time.