Daily physical exercise at school can significantly improve well-being of students from low socioeconomic background, a new study has revealed.
In a study of German school children with high socio-economic status (SES) and one with low SES students, researchers examined specific cardiac risk factors.
Then they randomized 121 students from the high SES school and 58 from the low SES school to either an intervention group receiving daily school physical exercise lessons, or a control group receiving the "regular school sports" twice a week. The average age of both groups was 11 years old.
Among lower SES youth with daily physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness improved by 14 percent and fat-free mass (FFM) improved by 2.6 percent.
Walther and her colleagues compared the fitness levels of the daily exercisers to the control students and found that students from both schools improved their exercise capacity and their fat-free mass.
After one year of additional exercise at school, there was no significant change in BMI-percentile but a significant increase of fat-free mass in children in the intervention group.
The most significant jump in FFM was among children in the intervention from the lower-SES school. It increased an average of 2.6 percentage points.
"What this study tells us is that with a simple method like daily exercise lessons, we can have a big effect on the cardiovascular risk factors of German high school students, especially those with lower socioeconomic profiles," Walther said.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2009.