SUNDAY, May 21, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A program aimed at helping school kids shed pounds resulted in a two percent reduction in the number of overweight children, according to a pilot study of 1,031 fourth- and fifth-graders at 16 schools in Florida, Delaware, Kansas and North Carolina.
The study also found that students who took part in the Wellness, Academics and You (WAY) program for a semester ate more fruits and vegetables and increased their levels of physical activity -- from an average of just under 12 minutes during the school day to 20.5 minutes, and from about 22 minutes a day outside of school to over 37 minutes.
Under the WAY program, students take 10-minute daily classroom breaks to exercise along with a video. Lessons on nutrition, calories, goal setting and stress management are also incorporated into core subjects -- math, language arts, science, and social studies.
Students in the WAY program keep a daily personal journal in which they record their physical activity and food choices. The program also provides resources for parents to enable them to take part in efforts to encourage students to adopt healthy lifestyles.
WAY targets students in grades four through six, because previous research found that this is a critical age for instilling healthy behaviors in children.
"The intervention was well-received by the classroom teachers and shows promise for a school-based obesity prevention program," study authors Samuel A. Spiegel and David Foulk said in a prepared statement.
Additional studies are needed "to determine whether long-term program fidelity will result in continued improvement," they said.
The study appears in the Journal of Obesity Research. WAY is offered by the nonprofit Institute for America's Health.
The Nemours Foundation has more about overweight and obesity in children.