Students with a lower socioeconomic background benefit from daily school physical activity

Nov 17, 2009

German school students -- especially those with low socioeconomic status (SES) -- significantly improved their exercise capacity and body leanness after a year of daily physical activity classes, according to research presented today at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2009.

In a study of German with high SES and one with low SES , researchers examined specific cardiac risk factors. Then they randomized 121 students from the high SES school and 58 from the low SES school to either an intervention group receiving daily school physical exercise lessons, or a control group receiving the "regular school sports" twice a week. The average age of both groups was 11 years old.

Among lower SES youth with daily physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness (measured by maximal oxygen consumption or VO2max) improved by 14 percent and fat-free mass improved by 2.6 percent.

"In Germany, students this age generally participate in two weekly exercise classes," said Claudia Walther, M.D., author of the study and a senior resident at the Heart Center at the University of Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany. "Our aim was to look at the impact of additional school exercise lessons on cardiovascular risk factors of children of different socioeconomic levels."

At the start of the study, (BMI) and fat-free mass (FFM) — a index in which the higher the number, the more lean versus fatty tissue — differed significantly in children from the lower SES school versus those from higher SES school. The average BMI at the lower at the lower-SES school was in the 60th percentile versus 48th percentile at the higher-SES school.

"Both BMI average values are in the normal range," Walther said. "But children at the higher percentiles are at greater risk of overweight and obesity now and in the future."

FFM was an average 75.5 percent at the lower-SES school versus 78.6 percent at the higher-SES school. Those values are also in the normal range, Walther said. But the greater average value at the higher SES school suggests those children are more active, have higher muscle mass and don't have as much fat mass.

Baseline cardiorespiratory fitness and motor skills were 7.5 percent better at the higher SES school than the lower.

After one year, Walther and her colleagues compared the fitness levels of the daily exercisers to the control students and found that students from both schools improved their exercise capacity and their fat-free mass. After one year of additional exercise at school, there was no significant change in BMI-percentile but a significant increase of fat-free mass in children in the intervention group. The most significant jump in FFM was among children in the intervention from the lower-SES school. It increased an average of 2.6 percentage points.

Furthermore, VO2max increased significantly in the lower SES school students after the intervention but did not reach the higher SES school levels at baseline.

"What this study tells us is that with a simple method like daily exercise lessons, we can have a big effect on the cardiovascular risk factors of German high school students, especially those with lower socioeconomic profiles," Walther said.

Though the study included boys and girls, it's not necessarily representative of children of other cultures or races because all the students were Caucasian, Walther said.

Source: American Heart Association (news : web)

Explore further: Meta-analysis tests vitamin D supplementation for weight loss theory

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Childhood obesity indicates greater risk of school absenteeism

Aug 10, 2007

In the first study of how weight may affect school attendance, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University have found that overweight children are at greater risk of school absenteeism than their normal-weight ...

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

16 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

16 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

16 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Scientists make critical end-stage liver discovery

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers in the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy has discovered a molecular pathway that could be key to creating new therapeutics that would slow or even reverse ...

Atom probe assisted dating of oldest piece of earth

(Phys.org) —It's a scientific axiom: big claims require extra-solid evidence. So there were skeptics in 2001 when University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscience professor John Valley dated an ancient crystal ...