Effects of Daily Physical Education on Physical Fitness and Weight Status in Middle School Adolescents

Stephen E. Erfle, Dickinson College
Abigail Gamble

Published as:
Erfle, Stephen E., and Abigail Gamble. "Effects of Daily Physical Education on Physical Fitness and Weight Status in Middle School Adolescents." Journal of School Health 85, no.1 (2015): 27-35.

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BACKROUND: In 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Health developed the Active Schools Program ( ASP) which required 30 minutes of daily physical education ( PE) in middle schools to reduce childhood obesity. This investigation evaluated the ASP effects on physical fitness and weight status in middle school adolescents throughout 1 academic year.

METHODS: A quasi-experimental design was used to recruit middle schools into an intervention group (N = 30) or control group (N = 9).

RESULTS: Physical fitness outcomes had larger intervention effects than weight status outcomes. These effects were most profound among at-risk students. Multiple linear regression analysis provided a best-guess effect of daily PE on body mass index ( BMI) percentile of −1.2, 95% confidence interval ( CI) (−1.9, −0.5) for at-risk females and −0.8, 95% CI (−1.5, −0.1) for at-risk males. Much of this benefit is attributable to the differential increase in physical fitness achieved by students with the benefit of having daily PE.

CONCLUSIONS: Thirty minutes of daily PE can be considered a scientific approach to ameliorate health outcomes in at-risk middle school adolescents, particularly among females. Improvements on BMI percentile among at-risk youth are presaged by greater improvements in physical fitness. This investigation supports a school-based approach aimed to improve behavioral risk factors as a means to reduce childhood obesity.