Children who participate in a short-burst exercise program incorporated into their classroom lessons take 300 more steps per day than children who do not participate in the program, according to a study published in the journal Childhood Obesity. CHAM JAM (Children's Hospital at Montefiore Joining Academics and Movement) is an audio CD consisting of 10-minute, education-focused aerobic activities led by teachers in the classroom, that has been shown to increase children's activity levels when performed up to three times per day.
While 60 minutes of exercise per day is recommended for children, few kids actually practice this regularly. The approach of incorporating exercise into the classroom could be beneficial for adding physical activity to a child's daily routine and has the potential to decrease children's risk of obesity and associated illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
The study followed children in kindergarten and first-grade classes in four Bronx elementary schools, and was led by Marina Reznik, M.D., M.S., attending physician, Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital at Montefiore, and associate professor of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and colleagues, including Principal Investigator Philip O. Ozuah, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president and chief operating officer, Montefiore, and professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology & Population Health, Einstein.
Two schools were randomly assigned to receive the CHAM JAM intervention and two schools served as the control group. The number of steps taken daily by children in all schools were similar at baseline; however eight weeks later the schools that incorporated CHAM JAM during lessons saw a significant increase in steps taken. The data were derived from a concealed pedometer that all participating children wore for five consecutive school days at baseline and again post-intervention.
"Childhood obesity is a national concern, but it is even more prevalent among minority communities in urban areas such as the Bronx where rates as high as 26% have been recorded among school children ages six to 11 years old," said Dr. Reznik. "We know that Physical Education (PE) is an important part of the school day but barriers such as lack of space and resources have contributed to a reduction in PE in schools nationwide. Research shows that physical activity can have beneficial effects on kids' musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health, as well as reduce body fat and we want to give our children an opportunity to gain these advantages. The CHAM JAM program was created to combine education and exercise, and we're pleased to report that it does indeed improve children's activity levels while also focusing on academic goals."
Dr. Reznik also notes that nearly half of all participants -- 461 children in the intervention group and 464 in the control group -- were obese or overweight, and that activity improvements found were consistent irrespective of gender, grade level or weight status. "CHAM JAM was created to address the increasing levels of childhood obesity in the Bronx," she says, "and we believe this cost-effective method of integrating physical activity that complements the classroom curricula could be a helpful asset to other educators across the country."
The educational material included during CHAM JAM is based on the approved curriculum for each grade level. Children respond to questions pre-recorded over different types of contemporary music, such as "Can anyone tell me what animal is from Australia, has a pouch to carry its babies and jumps really high? That's right, a kangaroo! Let's hop with both feet like kangaroo," and "Today, we're going to learn about adding numbers while we exercise. Okay, what's 2 plus 2? Right, it's four. Let's do four jumping jacks. Go!"
Teachers reported that CHAM JAM was a helpful tool in encouraging children to exercise but beyond that it also helped them to focus better on lessons afterwards and encouraged them to do the exercises together with their families at home.
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