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School exercise can boost kids' fitness

Thursday February 25th, 2010

By Jane Collingwood
Structured physical activity programmes in school can improve fitness and reduce body fat in children, researchers said yesterday.

Dr Susi Kriemler of the University of Basel, Switzerland, and her team believe that "a focus on early prevention of obesity is urgently needed".

They recruited 502 children of around seven or eleven years of age from 15 elementary schools in Switzerland. Just over half of the children were randomly allocated to a physical activity programme for nine months. It added two physical education lessons per week, making five in total, and included exercise "homework".

These children had significantly greater reductions in body fat as measured by skinfold thickness, than children not on the programme. Their aerobic fitness also increased significantly more than the non-participating children. However, quality of life did not change compared with the other group.

On the website of the British Medical Journal, the authors report: "A school based multi-component physical activity intervention including compulsory elements improved physical activity and fitness and reduced adiposity in children.

"Implementation of such a programme may help to improve the health and fitness of children and also to improve health later in life by reducing cardiovascular and other diseases."

In an editorial, Dr Esther van Sluijs of Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK, writes that the study found protective effects on a wide range of precise measures. But she warns that wider implementation would add substantially to the school timetable.

Nevertheless, "continual interventions throughout primary school and potentially secondary school may be the only way to increase physical activity and prevent obesity in the long term".

Kriemler, S. et al. Effect of school based physical activity programme (KISS) on fitness and adiposity in primary schoolchildren: cluster randomised controlled trial. The British Medical Journal, 2010;340:c785.

van Sluijs, E. M. F. and McMinn, A. Preventing obesity in primary schoolchildren. The British Medical Journal, 2010;340:c819.

Tags: Child Health | Fitness | Europe

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