Multipronged approach needed to get teens moving

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NEW YORK, Sep 22 (Reuters) Physical activity programs that involve the school and the family or community appear to have the greatest beneficial effect in getting adolescents off the couch and up and about, a review of published studies indicates.

The data also show that combining health education with environmental or policy changes, for example, adding extra PE classes in school, have positive effects on adolescents' physical activity levels.

''Adolescent obesity is on the rise, so programs that are effective in encouraging young people to be more active are good news for their health,'' Dr Esther M F van Sluijs from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, Cambridge, UK, noted in an email to Reuters Health. The design of future physical activity programs should incorporate school, family and the community, she added.

The findings, reported in yesterday's edition of BMJ Online First, are based on a systematic review of 57 controlled trials that assessed the impact of interventions to promote physical activity in children and adolescents.

Physical activity programs that work can make a difference, Van Sluijs and colleagues found. ''In general, interventions achieved important changes, such as a 13 per cent increase in play time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity,'' they report.

Van Sluijs and her colleagues found no evidence that education-only programs boost children's activity levels and there was inconclusive evidence of the benefit of these programs in adolescents.

''Overall, there was stronger evidence for the success of physical activity programmers among adolescents than among children,'' Van Sluijs said. ''This could be because the original studies were of higher quality and included large sample sizes.

It may also have been because adolescents are known to be less active than children and so have a greater potential for change.'' REUTERS ARB VC0842

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