Effects of a ‘school-based’ physical activity intervention on adiposity in adolescents from economically disadvantaged communities: secondary outcomes of the ‘Physical Activity 4 Everyone’ RCT

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Abstract

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES:

Obesity prevention during adolescence is a health priority. The ‘Physical Activity 4 Everyone’ (PA4E1) study tested a multi-component physical activity intervention in 10 secondary schools from socio-economically disadvantaged communities. This paper aimed to report the secondary outcomes of the study; to determine whether the intervention impacted on adiposity outcomes (weight, body mass index (BMI), BMI z-score), and whether any effect was moderated by sex, baseline BMI and baseline physical activity level, at 12 and 24 months.

SUBJECTS/METHODS:

A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted in New South Wales, Australia. The school-based intervention included seven physical activity strategies targeting the following: curriculum (strategies to maximise physical activity in physical education, student physical activity plans, an enhanced school sport programme); school environment (physical activity during school breaks, modification of school policy); and parents and the community (parent engagement, links with community physical activity providers). Students' weight (kg), BMI and BMI z-score, were collected at baseline (Grade 7), 12 and 24 months. Linear Mixed Models were used to assess between-group mean difference from baseline to 12 and 24 months. Exploratory sub-analyses were undertaken according to three moderators of energy balance.

RESULTS:

A total of 1150 students (mean age = 12 years) provided outcome data at baseline, 1051 (91%) at 12 months and 985 (86%) at 24 months. At 12 months, there were group-by-time effects for weight (mean difference = -0.90 kg (95% confidence interval (CI) = -1.50, - 0.30), P < 0.01) and BMI (-0.28 kg m- 2 (-0.50, - 0.06), P = 0.01) in favour of the intervention group, but not for BMI z-score (-0.05 (-0.11; 0.01), P = 0.13). These findings were consistent for weight (-0.62 kg (-1.21, 0.03), P = 0.01) and BMI (-0.28 kg m- 2 (-0.49, - 0.06), P = 0.01) at 24 months, with group-by-time effects also found for BMI z-score (-0.08 (-0.14; - 0.02), P = 0.02) favouring the intervention group.

CONCLUSION:

The PA4E1 school-based intervention achieved moderate reductions in adiposity among adolescents from socio-economically disadvantaged communities. Multi-component interventions that increase adolescents' engagement in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) may assist in preventing unhealthy weight gain.

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