254822 Sparking Life Niagara: The effects of daily physical activity on fitness, mental health and academic achievement

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jessica Hopkins, MD, MHSc, CCFP, FRCPC , Niagara Region Public Health, Thorold, ON, Canada
Jennifer Robertson, PhD , Public Health Ontario, Toronto, ON, Canada
Deborah Moore, MSc , Niagara Region Public Health, Thorold, ON, Canada
Sarah Leyenaar , Niagara Region Public Health, Thorold, ON, Canada
Tami McCallum , Niagara Region Public Health, Thorold, ON, Canada
Laurie Columbus, RN, BScN, MScN , Niagara Region Public Health, Thorold, ON, Canada
Background: Sparking Life Niagara is based on the research of Dr. John Ratey, a psychiatrist at Harvard University, who has studied the use of physical activity in students and its ability to improve academic achievement, physical health, and mental health. Sparking Life Niagara is a pilot program which uses aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes in the morning and in shorter “boosts” throughout the day.

Purpose: To help students be healthier and do better in school.

Significance: Demonstrating the academic benefits of physical activity has broad implications for school-based physical activity policies.

Methods: Niagara Region Public Health, District School Board of Niagara, Niagara Catholic District School Board, Niagara Sport Commission, and Public Health Ontario are working together to pilot Sparking Life Niagara in two Niagara high schools. A before-after study was conducted involving students most at risk of not achieving. Primary outcomes of interest included: 1) academic achievement, 2) physical fitness, and 3) mental health (concentration and mood). Secondary outcome measures of interest included teachers', students' and parents' perceptions of the effectiveness of the program, and enablers and barriers to implementing the program in classroom settings. Validated tools were used when available.

Findings: Preliminary findings indicate an improvement in classroom behaviours, academic achievement, and physical fitness outcomes. Analyses will be completed by June 2012.

Conclusions: Daily school-based physical activity improved physical, mental and academic outcomes in high-school students. Expansion of the study to further classes and groups of students with ongoing evaluation and is recommended.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the Sparking Life concept and outcomes 2. Discuss the physical fitness, mental health and academic outcomes of the Sparking Life Niagara program 3. Demonstrate how effective community and government partnerships can address population-based health needs

Keywords: School-Based Programs, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an Associate Medical Officer of Health, Niagara Region Public Health and Assistant Professor (part-time), Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics at McMaster University, Canada. I have published in peer-reviewed journals related to cancer epidemiology and cardiovascular disease prevention. My professional experience has included frequent and ongoing collaboration with local school boards in the areas of infectious disease prevention and physical activity promotion.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.