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Effects of physical activity in an overweight Emirati school-based male population – a preliminary investigation

Gareth Davison, Sameena Fawad, Alan Nevill, Colin Boreham, Conor McClean, Sean Petherbridge
Published in : HAMDAN MEDICAL JOURNAL ; Vol 6, No 3 (2013)
DOI : 10.7707/hmj.v6i3.246


The risk of diabetes and obesity is recognized as a public health concern within the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and interventions such as physical activity are required to reduce the prevalence of such non-communicable diseases. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of a structured physical activity intervention programme in an overweight Emirati school-based population. Twenty three (n=23) overweight Emirati, male natives (mean±standard deviation: age 14±3 years, stature 157±17 cm, body mass 69±26 kg, body mass index (BMI) 28±6 kg/m2 and VO2peak 33±7 ml/kg/min) participated in 60 minutes of exercise training a day, 5 days per week, for 12 weeks. All exercise sessions were planned, non-competitive and led by an expert physical education teacher. Primary outcome measures were an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness and a decrease in body mass, blood glucose, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride concentration. Secondary outcomes were reducing were arterial stiffness, body mass index, blood pressure (BP) and increasing whole-body strength. Relative to the baseline, there was a change in body weight and cardiorespiratory fitness (P≤0.05 vs. post intervention, n=23). Although there was a clear trend for statistical change over time in blood glucose, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and in triglyceride concentration, there was no difference between baseline and post intervention (P≥0.05). A plausible explanation for the change in fitness following exercise training may be related to a change in body mass or adaptations at the muscle cell level and/or significant cardiovascular structural change. For any biochemical statistical change to occur as a function of exercise training, a larger sample size may be required. In conclusion, the 12-week exercise intervention produced positive changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and body weight in a school-based population and this is the first study of its kind within the UAE. Full-scale interventions targeting the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus in all populations within the UAE are urgently required.

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