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New P.E. study demonstrates vigorous exercise can lower adolescents body fat, blood pressure

pressure among N.C. elementary school students, the researchers studied 1,140 11- to 14-year old middle school children, including 630 girls and 510 boys in four state school systems, McMurray said. They randomly assigned students to four "treatment" groups added exercise only, education only, exercise and education combined and a control group, which received no extra push in physical education.

"We wanted to see whether we could modify the children's programs slightly, stay within the state-mandated curriculum and still make a difference in terms of their risk profiles," he said. "Among the things we knew were that diets in central and eastern North Carolina like many parts of the country -- tend to be high in fat and that physical activity of rural children is less than that of children from urban areas."

Researchers found all four groups grew normally in height and all four, as expected, grew heavier over the two-month period studied, McMurray said. However, skin fold tests of the control group children showed they put on three times as much body fat as the other children who exercised and learned more about the lasting importance of vigorous exercise and good eating habits.

Skin fold and blood pressure measurements for children in the exercise-only groups fell between the two extremes, he said. Education-only groups did not differ significantly from the control group, suggesting that exercise was the most important component of the improved classes.

"With the blood pressure testing, we found drops in both systolic and diastolic pressures of four millimeters of mercury in the children who did more exercise and also learned about good nutrition," McMurray said. "Although that's not a big drop, it's pretty significant since it happened over only two months and with kids who were going through puberty. With both measures, we found more of a benefit than we expected."

Keeping blood pressure at healthy levels is important s
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-3596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
26-Jul-2002


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