Background: The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. Many local governments have enacted policies to increase physical activity in schools as a way to combat childhood obesity. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index (BMI) in children.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials up to September 2008. We also hand-searched relevant journals and article reference lists. We included randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials that had objective data for BMI from before and after the intervention, that involved school-based physical activity interventions and that lasted for a minimum of 6 months.
Interpretation: School-based physical activity interventions did not improve BMI, although they had other beneficial health effects. Current population-based policies that mandate increased physical activity in schools are unlikely to have a significant effect on the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity.