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Am J Public Health. 1991 Aug;81(8):986-91.

Promoting physical activity and a healthful diet among children: results of a school-based intervention study.

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Center for Health Promotion Research and Development, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston 77225.



National health objectives call for improved diet and more regular physical activity among children. We tested the effects of a school-based program to improve students' diet and physical activity behavior at school.


Two of the four elementary schools in one Texas school district were assigned to intervention and two to control conditions. The three intervention components were classroom health education, vigorous physical education, and lower fat, lower sodium school lunches. Nutrients from school lunches and the total day and the amount of physical activity students obtained during physical education were assessed as outcome.


Analysis of school lunches showed declines from base line to posttest in the two intervention schools of 15.5% and 10.4% for total fat, 31.7% and 18.8% for saturated fat, and 40.2% and 53.6% for sodium; posttest values were lower in the intervention schools. Observation of physical activity during physical education classes indicated an increase in the intervention schools from baseline to posttest in the percent of time children engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity from less than 10% of class time at baseline to about 40% of class time at posttest; posttest values were higher in the intervention schools than in the control schools.


This efficacy study demonstrates the feasibility of substantially modifying school lunches and school physical education to improve children's diet and physical activity behavior at school.

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