MIAMI - A Miami-Dade County after-school program is in the spotlight after a study found it's helping reduce childhood obesity.
The Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department offers Fit2Play at 32 county parks.
The program focuses on fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and a study conducted by the University of Miami says it's working.
"We are really encouraged by the first year results of the study," said Dr. Sarah Messiah, a pediatrics researcher at UM. "To be able to see not only them maintaining a healthy weight but also improving fitness, keeping their blood pressure normal, and then learning about why it's important to eat well and take care of themselves, sleep right, exercise, was also encouraging."
Researchers looked at each participant's body mass index, body fat, fitness levels, and nutrition knowledge before and after the program.
Fit2Play instructors say they see the differences in the children each day.
"We've had at least six or seven kids I know lost tons of weight," said Megan Dias, an instructor. "They learn why fruits and veggies are good for you. They learn why water is good for you."
"Eating healthier actually helps your body. It actually helps you run more and it makes your brain really healthy and smart," said Mia Fernandez, a participant.
The University of Miami will continue tracking the progress of Fit2Play's participants, and doctors say the program could serve as a model for after-school programs in the U.S.
"We think this is a great alternative. Whereas school-based programs have gotten a lot of push back, especially with budget cuts," said Messiah, "to start teaching children as young as 5-years-old about why it's important to eat right, what is important to eat, if these messages are continually enforced every day after school, we are seeing the benefit of that."
Copyright 2013 by Local10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.