Effect of a short-term physical activity program on selected anthropometric indices of primary school pupils in Alexandra, Johannesburg

Opeyemi, Otolorin
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Introduction: Obesity and overweight in childhood is a global concern. The increased surge in prevalence of overweight and obesity in low-and middle-income countries, particularly in childhood, has been the reason for many studies including this. In Africa, childhood overweight and obesity is seen to be at par with what was obtainable in developed countries just over a decade ago, and figures from South Africa are reported to be among the highest in Sub Saharan Africa. The growing concern for childhood overweight and obesity has necessitated the introduction of various forms of intervention programs. School-based intervention programs therefore may be used to engage learners in more physical activities than they would normally partake of. This study aimed to establish the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity and evaluate the effect of such school-based physical activity program on selected anthropometric indices and fitness among primary school children, albeit short-term. Methodology: This study was divided into 2 parts. Part A - Prevalence study: cross sectional descriptive study was used among learners in grades1 and 2 in 4 schools in Johannesburg East District. Anthropometric measurements (weight, height, BMI, waist-hip ratio, waist-height ratio, and skin-fold thicknesses) were taken once-off. The Global School-based Health Survey was administered. Part B - Intervention study: a longitudinal study that compared the effect of physical activities on overweight/obesity and fitness for a 6 weeks period at 2 schools. Forty six learners chosen by convenience participated in the study. Pre- and post- intervention anthropometric measures and the 20m shuttle run test were taken at 6 weeks and 3 months. Independent and Paired samples t-tests were used to analyse data. Significance level was set at 0.05. Results: Part A – Prevalence study: The participants were 580, 25.6% were overweight (obesity included) boys = 30.6% and girls = 21%.Underweight was recorded at 7.5%. A combination of fast-foods and food security were the major nutritional contribution to overweight/obesity in this population. Majority of participants spent more than 2hours in sedentary activities (56.2%), less than one day of Physical Education (71.7%) and active for less than one day of 60mins/week (55.7%) Part B – Intervention study: Total numbers of participants were 46 for the intervention study. There was a significant difference in BMI between groups (p=0.001) at 6 weeks with no significant improvement in fitness levels between groups at 6 weeks (p=0.947). At 3 months, results indicate that the intervention group maintained the improvements gained in BMI just immediately after the intervention period. Conclusion: Among participants, the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity was 25.6% and underweight was 7.5%. Also, the study indicates the benefits of school based intervention programmes in improving the health of school going children and the need for intervention programs that are tailored to address the growing concern of childhood overweight and obesity. Keywords: Childhood obesity, Overweight, Prevalence, School-based intervention, physical fitness, South Africa
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of the requirements for Master of Science in Physiotherapy. Johannesburg, 2016