An investigation of the effects of daily physical activity on the health of primary school students in South Australia.
Dwyer T., Coonan WE., Leitch DR., Hetzel BS., Baghurst RA.
Studies of the health effects of a daily physical activity programme have been carried out in 10-year-old school children in Adelaide, South Australia. In the first phase (1978) observations on endurance fitness, four skin folds, blood pressure and blood lipids were made before and after a randomized trial over a period of 14 weeks. Comparisons were made on over 500 children drawn from classes in seven Primary schools involved in an endurance fitness programme (1 1/4 hours per day), a skill programme and the previous physical education programme (controls). The fitness group experienced significant gains in physical work capacity (PWC) and showed significant decreases in body fat compared to the other two groups. No significant differences were observed in plasma cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol. Subsequently in the second phase (1980) observations were made on a group of 216 10-year-old children who had already experienced two years of the physical activity programme adopted after phase one. Comparison with the observations in the 10-year-old children in 1978 made prior to the intervention revealed significantly smaller skin folds and greater PWC, with lower blood pressure reaching statistical significance for diastolic pressure in boys. The findings suggest beneficial effects on health of daily physical activity programmes within existing primary school curricula. There was no evidence of any loss of academic performance as measured by arithmetic and reading tests in spite of 45-60 minutes' loss of formal teaching time each day.