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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2021 Feb 10

DOI: 10.23736/S0022-4707.21.12011-0


lingua: Inglese

A 3-year school-based intervention improved physical fitness and reduced the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Italian prepubertal children

Federica FIORI 1 , Giulia BRAVO 1, Maria PARPINEL 1, Giovanni MESSINA 2, Rita MALAVOLTA 3, Stefano LAZZER 1, 4

1 Department of Medicine, University of Udine, Udine, Italy; 2 Regional School of Sport, Italian Olympic Committee, Trieste, Italy; 3 Regional Italian Olympic Committee, Trieste, Italy; 4 School of Sport Sciences, University of Udine, Udine, Italy


BACKGROUND: Schools constitute the ideal setting in which children’s physical activity, physical fitness, and health status can improve. However, intervention protocols and their effectiveness vary considerably. The purpose of the study was to investigate the differences in physical fitness and overweight and obesity prevalence between children attending structured physical education classes held by a specialized teacher (EXP) or traditional classes of equal duration held by an ordinary teacher (TRAD).
METHODS: Anthropometric and fitness parameters were assessed in a convenience sample of 12,519 1st grade schoolchildren over 3 subsequent school years. Six field-based tests were used to assess physical fitness.
RESULTS: Physical fitness improved more in the EXP group than in the TRAD group, except for flexibility (Sit & Reach). At the end of the 3rd year, the EXP children performed better than did the TRAD children (p<0.001) in Léger (girls: +34%, boys: +30%), agility shuttle (girls: -10%, boys: -9%), long jump (girls: +9%, boys: +8%), frontal basketball throw (girls: +11%, boys: +10%), and standing balance (girls: +18%, boys: +28%). The prevalence of obesity and overweight was 5% lower in the EXP than in the TRAD group at the 3-year follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: The proposed teacher-driven intervention, which was focused on the quality rather than the duration of time spent in the gym during school hours, was effective in improving children’s physical fitness. Furthermore, the decrease in the prevalence of obesity and overweight suggests the intervention can improve heavier children’s weight status.

KEY WORDS: Physical activity; Physical education; Body mass index; Physical fitness; Pediatric obesity; Children

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