Changes in physical activity predict the health-related quality of life of South African schoolchildren

Laughing children (from Rooftop)

Regular physical activity has the potential to positively influence children's health. Cross-sectional studies show that physical activity in childhood is positively related to health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Since promoting physical activity also improves quality of life, school-based intervention is an important undertaking, especially in low- and middle-income countries, including South Africa.

For this reason, an intervention programme has been developed within the DASH (Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren's Health) project. Based on several components, it was implemented over a period of 20 weeks in eight primary schools in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. All schools were located in socially disadvantaged residential areas. A total of 758 children aged 8 to 13 years participated in the cluster-randomised intervention study. HRQoL was measured by the 27-item KIDSCREEN questionnaire. Physical activity was measured by questionnaire and cardiorespiratory fitness by the 20-m shuttle-run test.

The results of the mixed linear regression models show that higher baseline values and an increase in physical activity in all dimensions of HRQoL predicted higher values in the children examined. The baseline values and an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness predicted the children's physical well-being (one of the KIDSCREEN subscales). However, participation in the intervention had no effect on the children's HRQoL.

In conclusion, the study emphasises that the promotion of regular physical activity among children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods is an important task in the context of public health promotion. Policy makers should encourage schools to create an environment that leads to increased physical activity. It is also important to ensure that regular physical education classes are held in schools in order to lay the foundations for an active lifestyle outside school.

The results of the study can be read in detail in the journal Frontiers in Public Health:

Gall, S., Walter, C., du Randt, R., Adams, L., Joubert, N., Müller, I., Nqweniso, S., Pühse, U., Seelig, H., Smith, D., Steinmann, P., Utzinger, J., & Gerber, M. (2020) Changes in self-reported physical activity predict health-related quality of life among South African schoolchildren: findings from the DASH intervention trial. Frontiers in Public Health, 10.3389/fpubh.2020.492618