INTRODUCTION: Although the importance of regular physical activity has been widely demonstrated, most children displayed an inadequate level of physical fitness. Schools constitute an ideal setting in which children’s physical activity, physical fitness, and health status can improve. However, intervention protocols and their effectiveness vary considerably. The purpose of our study was to investigate if attending structured physical education classes held by a specialized teacher (EXP) could improve physical fitness and overweight and obesity prevalence more than in traditional classes of equal duration held by an ordinary teacher (TRAD). METHODS: Anthropometric and fitness parameters were assessed in a convenience sample of 12519 1st grade schoolchildren over 3 subsequent schoolyears. In EXP classes (3542 girls and 3848 boys), specialized teachers were responsible for implementing a class-specific physical activity plan based on a standardized programme designed to promote motor skills, coordination, physical literacy, team spirit and compliance with the rules to achieve long-term modifications in behavioural patterns. In contrast, TRAD classes (2498 girls and 2631 boys) followed the standard physical education programme. RESULTS: Physical fitness improved more in the EXP group than in the TRAD group, except for flexibility (Sit & Reach). At the end of the 3rd year, the EXP children performed better than did the TRAD children (p<0.001) in Léger (girls: +34%, boys: +30%), agility shuttle (girls: -10%, boys: -9%), long jump (girls: +9%, boys: +8%), frontal throw (girls: +11%, boys: +10%), and standing balance (girls: +18%, boys: +28%). No significant differences were found between the two groups regarding the anthropometric characteristics during the entire follow up. However, the prevalence of obesity and overweight at the 3rd year of follow-up was lower in the EXP group than in the TRAD group by -2% and -3%, respectively. DISCUSSION: The main results showed that, in the present sample of Italian schoolchildren, the higher competences of specialized teachers positively influenced children’s physical fitness starting from the second year of follow up. Most of the previous interventions which reported positive results included additional physical activity allocated time and used different outcomes to evaluate effectiveness. The present evidence showed that even a minor intervention, focused on the quality rather than the duration of time spent in the gym during school hours is capable of improving children’s fitness more than the standard curriculum is. Moreover, the decrease in the prevalence of obesity and overweight suggests the intervention can improve heavier children’s weight status. In conclusion, simple field-based test, which were found to be easy to implement in school environments, can be extremely useful to evaluate the effectiveness of physical education’s intervention. These tests could also be implemented by ordinary teachers in the Italian physical education core curriculum to periodically monitor the development of children’s physical fitness.

Effects of a 3-year physical education intervention in Italian schools

Federica Fiori;Maria Parpinel;Stefano Lazzer
2021

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Although the importance of regular physical activity has been widely demonstrated, most children displayed an inadequate level of physical fitness. Schools constitute an ideal setting in which children’s physical activity, physical fitness, and health status can improve. However, intervention protocols and their effectiveness vary considerably. The purpose of our study was to investigate if attending structured physical education classes held by a specialized teacher (EXP) could improve physical fitness and overweight and obesity prevalence more than in traditional classes of equal duration held by an ordinary teacher (TRAD). METHODS: Anthropometric and fitness parameters were assessed in a convenience sample of 12519 1st grade schoolchildren over 3 subsequent schoolyears. In EXP classes (3542 girls and 3848 boys), specialized teachers were responsible for implementing a class-specific physical activity plan based on a standardized programme designed to promote motor skills, coordination, physical literacy, team spirit and compliance with the rules to achieve long-term modifications in behavioural patterns. In contrast, TRAD classes (2498 girls and 2631 boys) followed the standard physical education programme. RESULTS: Physical fitness improved more in the EXP group than in the TRAD group, except for flexibility (Sit & Reach). At the end of the 3rd year, the EXP children performed better than did the TRAD children (p<0.001) in Léger (girls: +34%, boys: +30%), agility shuttle (girls: -10%, boys: -9%), long jump (girls: +9%, boys: +8%), frontal throw (girls: +11%, boys: +10%), and standing balance (girls: +18%, boys: +28%). No significant differences were found between the two groups regarding the anthropometric characteristics during the entire follow up. However, the prevalence of obesity and overweight at the 3rd year of follow-up was lower in the EXP group than in the TRAD group by -2% and -3%, respectively. DISCUSSION: The main results showed that, in the present sample of Italian schoolchildren, the higher competences of specialized teachers positively influenced children’s physical fitness starting from the second year of follow up. Most of the previous interventions which reported positive results included additional physical activity allocated time and used different outcomes to evaluate effectiveness. The present evidence showed that even a minor intervention, focused on the quality rather than the duration of time spent in the gym during school hours is capable of improving children’s fitness more than the standard curriculum is. Moreover, the decrease in the prevalence of obesity and overweight suggests the intervention can improve heavier children’s weight status. In conclusion, simple field-based test, which were found to be easy to implement in school environments, can be extremely useful to evaluate the effectiveness of physical education’s intervention. These tests could also be implemented by ordinary teachers in the Italian physical education core curriculum to periodically monitor the development of children’s physical fitness.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11390/1212043
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