Objective To conduct a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials aimed at testing whether school-based physical activity programmes improve cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in children.
Design Systematic review with meta-analysis.
Data sources Using keywords, we performed a computerised search in five databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science and SportDiscus.
Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Studies that assessed the effectiveness of school-based physical activity programmes on improving CRF in children (3–12 years old). We selected interventions that included an additional physical activity programme and not only a physical activity educational component. The reference lists of selected full-text articles and systematic reviews were also searched for relevant studies. Pooled effect size (Hedges′ g) was calculated assuming a random-effects model.
Results Twenty trials with 7287 healthy children aged 3–12 years were included in the meta-analysis. School-based physical activity interventions with aerobic games and activities were associated with a significant small increase in CRF (Hedges′ g=0.22; 95% CI 0.14 to 0.30; p<0.001). Based on subgroup analysis, the increase in CRF was significant in girls (Hedges′ g=0.25; 95% CI 0.13 to 0.37; p<0.001), but not in boys (Hedges′ g=0.02; 95% CI −0.10 to 0.14; p=0.731).
Summary Moderate quality evidence supports the effectiveness of school-based physical activity interventions on improving CRF in children.
Trial registration number Protocol PROSPERO registration number CRD42016050173.
- aerobic fitness
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Contributors DPPC conceptualised and designed the study with the support of VMV. DPPC drafted the initial manuscript and, along with VMV, approved the final manuscript as submitted. DPPC, AGH and VMV designed the data collection instruments, and coordinated and supervised data collection. DPPC, AGH, CAB, VMV and MSL were involved in the analysis and interpretation of data, and reviewed and revised the manuscript, approving the final manuscript as submitted.
Funding DPPC (FPU14/01370) and CAB are recipients of a predoctoral fellowship (FPU13/03137) by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.
Competing interests None Declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.