Purpose: To determine the effect of increasing the aerobic component of the school's physical activity program and improving the knowledge about weight control and blood pressure on the blood pressure and body fat of early adolescents.
Methods: The subjects were 1140 youth aged 11 to 14 years (630 females, 510 males; 64% white, 24.4% African-American, and 11.6% "other"), who were randomly assigned by school into four treatment groups: exercise only, education only, exercise and education combined, and control group. Heights, weights, and skinfold thicknesses were measured, and body mass index (BMI) was computed kg/m(2). Blood pressure was obtained in duplicate using a random-zero mercury sphygmomanometer. Maximal oxygen uptake was predicted from a submaximal cycle ergometer test. Data were analyzed using analysis of covariance statistics, adjusting for gender, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, and initial baseline characteristics.
Results: Systolic and diastolic blood pressures increased more in the control group than in the intervention groups (p =.001). The BMI did not change significantly (p =.709), but the sum of skinfolds increased less in subjects in the exercise intervention groups than the education only or control groups (p =.0001). The small increase in (p)VO(2)max of the combined exercise and education group was significantly greater than the education only group (p =.0001).
Conclusion: An exercise program for youth can have a positive effect on blood pressure independent of body weight loss.