McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

School-based physical activity programs provide some health benefits

by Veronica McGuire
Published: January 26, 2009
Maureen Dobbins
Maureen Dobbins, associate professor, School of Nursing

School-based physical activity programs are more likely to get kids moving during school hours, but have little impact on activity levels outside of class, according to a new review by a McMaster University researcher.

Maureen Dobbins, an associate professor at McMaster University's School of Nursing, was the lead researcher on a review that looked at the benefits of physical activity programs in schools.

Researchers reviewed data from 26 studies in North America, Europe, South America and Australia as part of a Cochrane review.

"Generally what we found was that school-based physical activity interventions are effective in getting kids to spend more time being physically active during school hours," Dobbins said. "What was disappointing was that we're not seeing more kids being engaged in physical activity outside of school."

Researchers did see a few studies demonstrate a positive impact on less television viewing, and while studies showed little impact on weight or blood pressure, they did show an increase in lung capacity.

But Dobbins suggested that measuring weight or focusing on body mass index (BMI) isn't really an appropriate outcome measure because the participants in the studies were growing kids from the ages of six to 18.

"We need to have other strategies that really focus on getting children, and likely families, to be more active outside of school hours."

Dobbins also highlighted evidence suggesting that the interventions have a different impact on boys and girls.

"We need to understand that better…one physical activity program may be more effective for boys than girls, and vice versa, so we likely need to tailor physical activity promotion according to gender."

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