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One Way to Reduce Child Obesity: Get Kids Moving More in Class
  • Posted February 27, 2024

One Way to Reduce Child Obesity: Get Kids Moving More in Class

Regular standing and walking activities in the classroom can aid in the fight against childhood obesity, a new study shows.

Children who took part in the Active Movement program experienced an 8% reduction in their waist-to-height ratio, according to results from British primary schools.

Participation in sports also increased by 10% at schools with the program, researchers report.

The Active Movement program aims to integrate motion into classrooms, which can tend to be a very sedentary experience for deskbound students.

“By introducing movement into teaching in creative ways, such as standing up to answer questions or walking around the classroom as part of a learning exercise, we can significantly reduce [students'] sedentary time,” said lead researcher Flaminia Ronca, an associate professor with the University of College London's Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health.

The program focuses on low-level physical activity, and doesn't require extra equipment or staff to implement, researchers said.

“Our study shows that this can lead to a recognizable improvement in their waist-to-height ratio,” Ronca added in a university news release.

Nearly 21% of U.S. children ages 6 to 11 are obese, comparable to an obesity rate of nearly 23% among U.K. fifth graders, according to stats from the researchers and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the study, researchers trained teachers at 26 U.K. primary schools to incorporate standing and walking throughout their students' daily lessons and activities.

They compared those schools to students at four other primary schools who didn't take part in the Active Movement program.

Children with a higher waist-to-height ratio at the start of the study showed the greatest improvement, regardless of their economic status, age or gender, researchers said.

That's important because children from the poorest areas are more likely to develop obesity and to attend schools with fewer resources, researchers said.

The new study was published recently in the journal Obesity Facts.

“Our results show that reducing sedentary behaviors during school time can be an effective obesity-reduction strategy for primary school children who are overweight,” said senior researcher Mike Loosemore, of the University of College London's Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health.

“What's even more encouraging is that this method was effective regardless of the child's socioeconomic status, age or gender,” Loosemore added. “It is something that schools could introduce without needing to invest heavily in equipment or staff, and everyone will benefit.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about childhood obesity.

SOURCE: University College London, news release, Feb. 22, 2024

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