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School changes could help kids be more active, eat better

Environmental and policy changes at schools might help kids become more physically active and eat better, but important hurdles must be overcome to make these changes a reality, new research suggests.

A team of California researchers worked with school personnel, parents and students at 12 middle schools in San Diego County to make structural changes designed to increase students physical activity and decrease their saturated dietary fat intake over a two-year period.

The changes included helping schools alter their approaches to physical education and giving students opportunities to increase physical activity before, during and after school. They also included working with schools to offer low-fat foods in school cafeterias and school stores and encouraging students to bring low-fat lunches from home. No classroom health education was offered so that the effects of environmental changes could be clearly seen.

Baseline information was gathered in the spring of 1997 and changes were made during the following two school years. To analyze the results, the researchers observed students physical activity during physical education classes; observed physical activity before school, during lunch and after school on school grounds; tracked dietary fat purchased from school sources or brought from home; and randomly polled students about their physical activities and dietary fat intake.

The environmental and policy changes resulted in some positive effects for boys but not for girls. Boys physical activity at school increased and their body mass index decreased. No changes were observed in students overall dietary fat intake, however.

Environmental and policy interventions appear to have had important effects on physical activity and weight control for boys, write James F. Sallis, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at San Diego State University, and colleagues.

All of us have a responsibility to make schools a healthful e
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Contact: Dr. James Sallis
sallis@mail.sdsu.edu
619-260-5534
Center for the Advancement of Health
11-Apr-2003


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