Changes in school curricula are urgently required to introduce longer, more frequent and more physically intense PE lessons, a study coordinated by the University of Malta in collaboration with Staffordshire University has highlighted.
This will address Malta’s obesity rates in youngsters and can significantly improve children’s weight and overall health.
With 40% of primary and 42.6% of secondary school children being either overweight or obese, Prof. Alfred Gatt said "the physical, psychological and social implications of Malta's obesity rates creates the need to safeguard children's health and provide solutions for the crippling health costs for Malta of around 70 million euros each years for the treatment of complications from obesity".
A paediatric doctor at Mater Dei who led the study said that with only 31 hours in secondary school of PE lessons compared to 108 hours in France, we investigated whether adopting an alternative, evidence-based PE education program alongside biomechanical testing could be used as a cost-effective way to address this.120 children aged 9 to 10, attending state primary schools, participated in the study over one school year. While a control group was taught the national PE curriculum, an intervention group took part in the Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) PE education program, which is specifically designed to achieve the recommended 50% of MPVA per PE lesson.
The impact of increased MPVA on BMI, waist circumference, and resting heart rate were measured alongside biomechanical tests to assess vertical jump height and postural stability.
Vertical jumps executed on a force platform measured sports performance by evaluating the explosive strength of the lower limbs, while the postural stability tests looked at gait pattern and balance which are often affected by being overweight.
The study, titled 'Longitudinal effects of evidence-based physical education in Maltese children' can be accessed and read in full online.