Background: Physical activity is important for weight control and good health; however, activity levels decline in the adolescent years, particularly in girls.
Design: Group randomized controlled trial.
Setting/participants: Middle school girls with English-speaking skills and no conditions to prevent participation in physical activity in 36 schools in six geographically diverse areas of the United States. Random, cross-sectional samples were drawn within schools: 6th graders in 2003 (n=1721) and 8th graders in 2005 (n=3504) and 2006 (n=3502).
Intervention: A 2-year study-directed intervention (fall 2003 to spring 2005) targeted schools, community agencies, and girls to increase opportunities, support, and incentives for increased physical activity. Components included programs linking schools and community agencies, physical education, health education, and social marketing. A third-year intervention used school and community personnel to direct intervention activities.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome, daily MET-weighted minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MET-weighted MVPA), was assessed using accelerometry. Percent body fat was assessed using anthropometry.
Results: After the staff-directed intervention (pre-stated primary outcome), there were no differences (mean= -0.4, 95% CI= -8.2 to 7.4) in adjusted MET-weighted MVPA between 8th-grade girls in schools assigned to intervention or control. Following the Program Champion-directed intervention, girls in intervention schools were more physically active than girls in control schools (mean difference 10.9 MET-weighted minutes of MVPA, 95% CI=0.52-21.2). This difference is about 1.6 minutes of daily MVPA or 80 kcal per week. There were no differences in fitness or percent body fat at either 8th-grade timepoint.
Conclusion: A school-based, community-linked intervention modestly improved physical activity in girls.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00006409.