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School-Based, Compulsory Exercise Helps Youth Stay Fit

However, study suggests positive changes can be difficult to sustain

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A school-based intervention that incorporates compulsory exercise sessions as well as physical education homework helps children become more active and fit and reduces adiposity, according to a study published Feb. 23 in BMJ.

Susi Kriemler, M.D., of the University of Basel in Switzerland, and colleagues conducted a study of 502 first- and fifth-grade children, of whom 297 were randomized to a multi-component program of physical activity which boosted the existing three physical education lessons on the timetable to five, in addition to short activity breaks and physical activity homework, while 205 participants formed the control group and did not know about the intervention group.

Although the intervention group did not show any significant change in terms of daily physical activity and quality of life, they did show a reduction in body fat, better aerobic fitness and higher levels of physical activity in school, as well as improved body mass index and cardiovascular risk scores, the researchers found. However, a related editorial casts doubt on the feasibility of long-term change as a result of such interventions.

"Removal of the intervention at any stage will require the children themselves to change their physical activity behavior during and outside of school," the editorial authors write. "Without teaching skills for behavioral change and involving family members, it is unclear whether school-based interventions can be successful in the long term."

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