Reduced cardiovascular fitness (CVF) is a risk factor for obesity and cardiovascular disease. It has previously been shown that a school-based fitness curriculum can improve CVF, and other health indicators in middle school aged children. Whether an afterschool program improves CVF and other health markers in elementary-school children is unresolved. To determine whether an on-site afterschool-based fitness program improves body composition, cardiovascular fitness level in elementary school children, 80 elementary school children were evaluated in a “fitness-oriented” afterschool program managed by the local YMCA. Children underwent evaluation of CVF by maximal VO2 treadmill testing and body composition by dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), at baseline (prior to the school-year) and again at end of the school year. At baseline, children had a mean age of 8.8 years, body mass index (BMI) of 18.7± 3, with a maximal VO2 of 40.03 ± 7.6 ml/kg/min, and percent body fat of 28.7 ± 7%. After a 9-month intervention, children maximal VO2 increased to 44.8 ± 7.5 ml/kg/min (p=0.04) and percent body fat decreased to 25.8 ± 6.2% (p=0.033). On-site afterschool programming focusing on fitness improved body composition and cardiovascular fitness, in elementary school children. Combined with prior studies, these data demonstrate that afterschool-based fitness curricula can benefit both obese and non-obese children. Partnerships with schools to promote fitness even outside of school time should be a part of a school approach to improving children’s health.
Key words: Schools, obesity, poor fitness, children.
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