Objective: Our primary objective was to determine whether a novel 'active school' model--Action Schools! BC--improved the cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk profile in elementary-school children. Our secondary objective was to determine the percentage of children with elevated CVD risk factors.
Methods: We undertook a cluster-randomized controlled school-based trial with 8 elementary schools across 1 school year, in British Columbia, Canada, beginning in 2003. Boys and girls (n=268, age 9-11 years) were randomly assigned (by school) to usual practice (UP, 2 schools) or intervention (INT, 6 schools) groups. We assessed change between groups in cardiovascular fitness (20-m Shuttle Run), blood pressure (BP), and body mass index (BMI, wt/ht(2)). We evaluated total cholesterol (TC), total:high-density cholesterol (TC:HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein, apolipoprotein B, C-reactive protein and fibrinogen on a subset of volunteers (n=77).
Results: INT children had a 20% greater increase in fitness and a 5.7% smaller increase in BP compared with children attending UP schools (P<0.05). Forty five percent of children had at least one elevated risk factor (fitness, BP or BMI) at baseline. There were no significant differences between groups for change in BMI or in any of the blood variables.
Conclusion: Action Schools! BC was an effective school-based physical activity model for improving the CVD risk profile of elementary-school children. Our multi-component intervention exposed children to fitness enhancing physical activity. It may be important for education stakeholders to adequately resource the delivery of the active school models if cardiovascular health benefits are to be achieved on a population basis.