Beneficial effects of regular physical activity (PA) during childhood have widely been recognised. In spite of this many are not sufficiently physically active; therefore, health promotion has to start early. The programme “Join the Healthy Boat” promotes– amongst other aspects – an increase of daily PA in primary school children. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme, this study investigated children’s PA behaviours objectively.
During one school year, teachers delivered lessons and action alternatives in order to promote daily PA. A subsample of 318 children participated in the clusterrandomised study; at follow-up, 167 of them (8.0 ± 0.6 years, male: 46.1%) were assessed again. Children’s height and weight were measured on site; PA was assessed on six consecutive days using multi-sensor accelerometry (Actiheart©, CamNtech). PA was defined as the amount of energy expended. All other parameters were assessed using a parental questionnaire.
At follow-up, significant effects were found for moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) and gender as well as MVPA and weight status, with boys being more active than girls and overweight/obese children being more active than normal weight children (T-5.646 p<0.01; T-3.998 p<0.01, respectively). Further, more overweight/obese children as well as children in the intervention group reached the recommended activity guidelines of 60 minutes daily in MVPA; yet no statistical significance was reached. However, comparing control and intervention group, no significant intervention effects were found after one year.
A multi-dimensional intervention for one year does not seem to achieve significant increases in children’s objectively assessed PA. Maybe a longer lasting, more intense intervention with extra lessons would show more positive effects. Also, assessing PA directly after seven weeks of summer holidays (with no intervention) might have led to lower PA levels than straight after the intervention at the end of the previous school year.
Susanne Kobel, Sarah Kettner, Jens Dreyhaupt, Jürgen M. Steinacker
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