(RxWiki News) Getting enough physical activity each day is an important component to an overall healthy lifestyle. The earlier kids learn this habit, the more likely they will keep it up.
A recent study found that schools can play a role in increasing the amount of physical activity students get each day.
Students at schools where a program was implemented to promote healthy lifestyles increased their daily physical activity more than students at schools without the program.
The program emphasized healthy nutrition and physical activity as a part of a healthy lifestyle both in and out of school.
"Ensure your children get physical activity daily."
The study, led by Kerry A. Vander Ploeg, BSc, of the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta in Canada, looked at whether a new program at schools made a difference in children's daily physical activity.
The program — called the Alberta Project Promoting Active Living and Healthy Eating in Schools (APPLE Schools) — began in January 2008, and the study ran through June of 2011.
The project "builds on and extends previous school-based health promotion interventions" by adding a full-time healthy living facilitator to each school's faculty.
The four objectives of the program include the following:
- "to improve healthy living habits of students
- to increase knowledge about healthy living for the whole school community
- to apply and sustain comprehensive school health in school communities
- to sustain capacity for healthy environments in school communities."
The researchers used pedometers to measure the daily steps taken by fifth grade students at 10 schools where the program was implemented both during and after school. These results were compared to the daily steps taken by fifth grade students at 20 other schools that did not have the program.
The 1,157 students who took part across all the schools wore pedometers for seven days in the spring of 2009 and 2011 to provide the data.
In analyzing the data, the researchers took into account differences in the students' sex, body weight, parental level of education and household income.
The researchers found that students at both types of schools — those with the new program and those without — were more active during the entire week in 2011 than they had been in 2009.
Across all the schools, with or without the program, the fifth graders in 2011 were taking an average 1,172 steps per day more on weekdays than the fifth graders in 2009. On weekends, students in 2011 took an average 1,450 extra steps per day than students in 2009.
However, the researchers found that students at the 10 schools with the APPLE Schools program gained more in their steps per day than students at the schools without the program.
Students at schools without the program were only taking an additional 931 steps per weekday in 2011, compared to 2,152 extra steps per day among fifth graders at the schools with the APPLE Schools program.
Therefore, the students at the schools with the comprehensive school health program took an extra 1,221 steps per weekday more than those at the schools without the program.
Similarly, the students at schools with the APPLE Schools program took an extra 2,001 steps per weekend day in 2011 than the students at schools without the program.
"These findings provide evidence of the effectiveness of comprehensive school health to affect children’s physical activity during and outside of school," the researchers wrote.
They wrote that these findings "justify broader implementation of effective comprehensive school health interventions for physical activity promotion and obesity prevention in the long term."
The study was published January 13 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. The authors reported no potential conflicts of interest.