The impact of a primary school physical activity intervention in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • R Naidoo
  • Y Coopoo
Keywords: Physical activity, classroom-based intervention, South African children, Physical Education/Life Orientation


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a physical activity intervention incorporated within classroom-based lessons, during lunch-breaks and after school. A convenient sample of eleven primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa participated in an 18-month school-based intervention programme. Learners (n=798) aged 10-15 years completed a nutrition and physical activity questionnaire and participated in a battery of fitness tests pre- and post-intervention. Principals and educators volunteered and were trained to implement the intervention in their respective schools. Educators were interviewed pre- and post-intervention. The intervention was designed to introduce various methods of physical activity within the existing school curriculum. Incremental changes and instructional strategies were made to lessons and not the entire lesson plan changed. Classroom-based intervention materials were developed to provide cost-effective and more importantly, a sustainable intervention. Post-intervention results showed that physical activity participation among learners ranged from 45-215 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity during school hours, excluding lunch-breaks. A significant increase (p≤0.05) in number of sporting activities learners engaged in during Physical Education/Life Orientation lessons was demonstrated. Minimal increases in flexibility (sit-and-reach test) scores and significant (p≤0.05) increases in abdominal strength (sit-ups) for both boys and girls were measured post-intervention. A school-based physical activity intervention can promote positive short-term effects on learners’ physical activity participation, as well as increase physical activity participation during formal instruction and lunch-breaks.

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eISSN: 1117-4315