Gender differences on effectiveness of a school-based physical activity intervention for reducing cardiometabolic risk: a cluster randomized trial

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2014 Dec 10;11:154. doi: 10.1186/s12966-014-0154-4.


Background: Studies that have examined the impact of a physical activity intervention on cardiometabolic risk factors have yielded conflicting results. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of a standardized physical activity program on adiposity and cardiometabolic risk factors in schoolchildren.

Methods: Cluster randomized trial study of 712 schoolchildren, 8-10 years, from 20 public schools in the Province of Cuenca, Spain. The intervention (MOVI-2) consisted of play-based and non-competitive activities. MOVI-2 was conducted during two 90-minute sessions on weekdays and one 150-minute session on Saturday mornings every week between September 2010 and May 2011. We measured changes in adiposity (overweight/obesity prevalence, body mass index [BMI], triceps skinfold thickness [TST], body fat %, fat-free mass, waist circumference) and other cardiometabolic risk factors (LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides/HDL-cholesterol ratio, insulin, C-reactive protein and blood pressure). The analyses used mixed regression models to adjust for baseline covariates under cluster randomization.

Results: Among girls, we found a reduction of adiposity in intervention versus control schools, with a decrease in TST (-1.1 mm; 95% confidence interval [CI] -2.3 to -0.7), body fat % (-0.9%; 95% CI -1.3 to -0.4), waist circumference (-2.7 cm; 95% CI -4.5 to -0.9), and an increase in fat-free mass (0.3 kg; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.6). The intervention also led to lower serum LDL-cholesterol and insulin levels. Among boys, a reduction in waist circumference (-1.4 cm; 95% CI -2.6 to -0.1; P = 0.03), and an increase in fat-free mass (0.5 kg; 95% CI 0.2 to 0.9; P = 0.003) was associated with the intervention versus control schools. The prevalence of overweight/obesity or underweight, BMI, and other cardiometabolic risk factors was not modified by the intervention. No important adverse events were registered.

Conclusions: An extracurricular intervention of non-competitive physical activity during an academic year, targeting all schoolchildren regardless of body weight, is a safe and effective measure to reduce adiposity in both genders and to improve cardiometabolic risk profile in girls.

Trial registration: Clinical trials NCT01277224.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adiposity
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Patient Compliance
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Schools
  • Sex Factors*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Waist Circumference


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • C-Reactive Protein

Associated data