Impact of a primary school-based nutrition and physical activity intervention on learners in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa: A pilot study

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South African Journal of Sport Medicine

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University of Cape Town

Background. The opportunity for children to be physically active during school hours is rapidly decreasing in selected schools. This study evaluated the effects of a nutrition and physical activity (NAP) intervention incorporated within the school curriculum. Study design and methods. A prospective empirical pilot study with an intervention and an assessment of pre- and post-intervention fitness. Learners completed a NAP questionnaire and participated in a battery of fitness tests before and after intervention. Setting. A purposive sample of four primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal was selected by the provincial Department of Health. Interventions. The NAP intervention was designed to introduce various methods of physical activity and healthy nutritional habits within the school's existing curriculum. Classroom-based intervention materials were developed to provide cost-effective and, more importantly, a sustainable intervention. Results. Post-intervention results showed a significant increase (p<0.05) in the average number of sports participated in by each learner during physical education / life orientation periods. Learners were motivated to participate in physical activity including games and sports during break times. A general increase in after-school activities from pre- to post-intervention per learner was noted. Conclusion. A school-based physical activity and nutrition intervention programme has the potential to increase the physical activity of learners and to a lesser degree their nutritional behaviour.