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Fitness classes beat team sports for helping children lose weight.

WASHINGTON -- Specially designed physical education classes that increase levels of physical activity were better for over-weight children than typical classes focusing on team-oriented sports and games, according to findings from a school-based study.

During the course of a school year, the children in the fitness-focused classes lost more body fat and had greater improvements in fasting insulin levels and cardiovascular fitness, Aaron L. Carrel, M.D., said at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

"We need to partner with the schools" to improve the health of overweight children, said Dr. Carrel of the department of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Dr. Carrel and his associates worked with a school district outside of Madison to randomize 50 overweight, middle-school children to either standard physical education classes, which emphasize team sports and games, or to fitness-oriented gym classes. All classes were held three times a week for 42 minutes.

The fitness-oriented classes were smaller in size--approximately 15 students, compared with 30-35--and focused on the use of equipment, such as treadmills, and other fitness-oriented activities. "In the [standard] class, there was more standing around and choosing teams," Dr. Carrel noted at the meeting, sponsored by the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

All students had a body mass index above the 95th percentile for age. At the beginning and end of the school year, they underwent fasting evaluation of insulin and glucose and measurement of body composition by dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).

They also participated in maximal oxygen consumption (V[O.sub.2] max) treadmill testing that was progressive and staged. Every minute the treadmill got steeper "until the children couldn't exercise any longer," he said.

At baseline, there were no significant differences between the two groups in any of these measures. But after the 9-month school year was up, the children in the specially designed classes had a greater loss of body fat (4% vs. 2%), a greater increase in cardiovascular fitness (an increase in V[O.sub.2] max of nearly 3 mL/kg per minute vs. less than 1 mL/kg per minute), and greater improvement in fasting insulin (-5 [micro]IU/mL vs. +3 [micro]IU/mL).

Other research conducted has shown that fitness has a greater correlation with insulin than body fat, Dr. Carrel noted.

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Title Annotation:Obesity
Author:Kilgore, Christine
Publication:Family Practice News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 15, 2005
Words:393
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