Overweight Children Benefit from Play-Oriented Movement Programmes and Diet Counselling
8 February 2012
On a long-term basis, overweight and adiposity in children can be effectively combated with motivating physical exercise and diet counselling. This is indicated by the findings of a four-year study conducted at Heidelberg University in which 120 children from the Rhine-Neckar region took part in a play-oriented movement programme and diet counselling course from 2006 to 2010. In the long run, these overweight children were successfully motivated to engage in more sports. Additionally, the final evaluations of the motor performance tests and the medical examinations showed that this had a variety of positive effects on the overall development of the youngsters. The interdisciplinary project was supervised by work groups from the Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences (ISSW), Heidelberg University’s Department of Internal Medicine, the Children’s Hospital Heidelberg and the Sports Medicine Department.
“In a hitherto unexampled manner, the project ‘Ball School Heidelberg’ aimed at investigating the effects of age-related motor activities and diet counselling on motor, psychosocial and medical/health-associated features of overweight children,” says Prof. Dr. Klaus Roth of ISSW. The inspiration for the project co-funded by the Manfred Lautenschläger and Günter Reimann-Dubbers Foundations was the result of a representative Robert Bosch study of 2005, which concluded that 15 percent of Germany’s children and adolescents were overweight. Subsequently, Heidelberg University conducted a controlled study from 2006 to 2010 in which the children were allotted to a therapy module in which they participated over a period of six months. The programme consisted of four different therapy modules. “Diet counselling” and “exercise motivation” were offered both separately and in unison to investigate the different effects they had on the development of overweight children. Before and after these interventions, the children’s health status was subjected to detailed analysis at the Children’s Hospital and the Internal Medicine Department. In addition, the children took part in motor, cognitive and psychosocial tests at ISSW.
“When conducting such a programme, sustainability is a crucial factor,” says Dr. Ulrike Hegar of ISSW. “Unlike mere ‘calorie-burning’ projects, we were not out for quick success. We wanted to impart specific skills to the children so that they would experience success and hence have more fun engaging in sporting activities. This increased the long-term likelihood of adopting a lifestyle that encouraged exercise and was good for their health.”
The evaluations of the motor performance tests show distinct improvements of those children who took part in the play-oriented movement programme. Their motor skill level and their general coordinative performance improved, their motor intelligence increased and they developed more stamina for prolonged physical activity. “These abilities are prerequisites for dealing with physical instruction at school or coming to terms with new kinds of sport,” says Dr. Hegar. The children who attended the Ball School also developed a noticeable improvement in their game-play ability. “Being able to play is an important skill in the exercise and activity repertory of primary school children,” Dr. Hegar adds. “Without it, they are likely to be excluded from many joint activities in the school yard or in their leisure time.” In terms of the medical parameters, the children who took part in the exercise and diet programme also profited from their participation. Weight increase slowed down and they also did better in tests measuring the thickness of their arterial walls via ultrasonic scans.
“The project’s sustainable success is also demonstrated by several Mannheim elementary schools in socially challenged areas of the city, where since the end of the project the ‘Ball School Heidelberg’ has become a well-established after-school activity,” says Prof. Roth.
The work groups involved in the interdisciplinary project were headed by Prof. Roth, Prof. Dr. Peter Nawroth (internal medicine), Prof. Dr. Georg Hoffmann (Children’s Hospital) and Prof. Dr. Peter Bärtsch (sports medicine).
Dr. Ulrike Hegar
Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences
phone:+49 6221 544338
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