This study, supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research, (NINR), National Institutes of Health, (NIH) is part of the
Cardiovascular Health in Children project.
Dr. Harrell presented the study results at the American Heart Association, Cardiovascular Disease and Epidemiology
Conference. She reported that, while students who took part in just one component of the study showed some improvement,
those who participated in both the classroom instruction and physical activity showed significant improvement.
The research team evaluated 600 students, aged 11 to 14, from several rural areas in North Carolina. They divided the children
into four groups: One group of students participated twice a week in a "knowledge/attitude" program, which involved classroom
instruction on issues of nutrition, smoking, fitness, and cardiovascular health. Another group participated in a physical activity
program for 20-30 minutes three times a week. A third group of students participated in both programs and a fourth group did
not participate in either intervention.
In the knowledge/attitude program, children learned healthy eating habits, how to read food nutrition labels, the dangers of
smoking, and strategies to "say no" to smoking. Another component of the program focused on general cardiovascular health
and the importance of fitness, including various kinds of activities and how much activity is needed for fitness.
The regular physical education teachers of the school conducted classes using instructional plans supplied by the research team.
The 20-30 minute classes were taught three times a week and consisted of a program of cardiovascular activity, including warm
up and cool down periods. Activities did not require sports skills so that all students could participate at similar levels.
The researchers measured the lipid profile of each student before starting and after completing the program. The lipid profile
includes measures of total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglyceride levels.
The total cholesterol and LDL levels in students participating in the knowledge/attitude program only were reduced. Students in
the physical activity group also had significant reductions in LDL levels. The greatest reductions in total cholesterol were
achieved by the students who participated in both programs.
The results of this study demonstrated that the combination of both a knowledge/attitude program and a physical activity
program was highly effective in improving lipid profiles in this group of young adolescents.
The research team included: Joanne S. Harrell, PhD, RN, FAAN; Robert G. McMurray, PhD, FACSM; Shrikant Bangdiwala,
PhD; Amy Levine, MD; Shibing Deng, MS; and Chyrise B. Bradley, MA.
To contact Dr. Harrell, call Renee Kinzie of the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill School of Nursing Public Relations
Department at (919) 966-9412.