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Arnold School of Public Health

Promotion of Physical Activity in High School Girls - Lifestyle Education for Activity Project (LEAP)

Background

Regular participation in physical activity has been shown to provide an array of important health benefits. These include reduced risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, Type II diabetes mellitus, obesity, certain cancers, and some mental health problems. However, despite these benefits, population surveys indicate that less than 25% of adult Americans are physically active on a daily or near daily basis. These surveys also show that, as a group, females are less active than males and that minority groups tend to be less active than whites. Of concern, these gender and ethnic differences in adult physical activity behavior appear to have their origins in adolescence. Cross-sectional studies of young females indicate that physical activity declines steadily during adolescence and that the rate of decline is steeper in non-white than white girls. Consequently, there is a concern that the physical activity experiences provided to American girls, primarily those provided in school physical education, may be inadequate from the standpoint of promoting lifelong participation in physical activity.

Purpose

This study examines the effects of a comprehensive school-based physical activity intervention on physical activity, physical fitness, and psychosocial determinants of physical activity in high school girls. DESIGN AND STUDY POPULATION: A two-wave nested cohort experimental deign was used, and school was the primary unit of analysis. Subjects were girls in 24 secondary schools. Schools were matched on demographic characteristics and randomly assigned in equal numbers to intervention or control groups.

Invervention

The intervention, which was targeted at reducing the rate of decline in physical activity in girls, included modifications of physical education, health education, school health services, and school environment. These modifications were designed to provide girls with positive physical activity experiences though participation in physical activities that are culturally relevant and to provide enhanced social and environmental support for physical activity.

Measurement

Baseline testing was performed during the spring of the subjects' eighth grade year with follow-up tests being administered one and two years later. Dependent variables include self-reported participation in moderate and vigorous physical activity in and outside of school, physical fitness measured as cardiorespiratory fitness, and psychosocial determinants of physical activity including self-efficacy, social influences, beliefs, and intention.

Baseline testing was performed during the spring of the subjects' eighth grade year with follow-up tests being administered one and two years later. Dependent variables include self-reported participation in moderate and vigorous physical activity in and outside of school, physical fitness measured as cardiorespiratory fitness, and psychosocial determinants of physical activity including self-efficacy, social influences, beliefs, and intention.

Project Details

Timeline: 1997 - 2007
Funding Source: NIH / NHLBI
Principal Investigator: Russell R. Pate
Co-Investigator(s): Rod Dishman, Dianne Ward, Gwen Felton, Ruth Saunders, Cheryl Addy, Dwayne Porter

Publications

Dowda M, Pfeiffer KA, Lobelo F, Porter DE, Pate RR. Cardiorespiratory fitness and proximity to commercial physical activity facilities among 12th grade girls. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2012.

Saunders RP, Pate RR, Dowda M, Ward DS, Epping J, Dishman RK. Assessing sustainability of Lifestyle Education for Activity Program (LEAP). Health Education Research, 2011; doi: 10.1093/her/cyr111.

Pfeiffer KA, Colabianchi N, Dowda M, Porter D, Hibbert J, Pate RR. Examining the role of churches in adolescent girls’ physical activity. J Phys Act Health, 2011;8:227-33.


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