Toronto: Mentoring at schools boosts children's physical and academic performance, besides promoting cardiovascular fitness, says a study.

Principal investigator Camille Hancock Friesen and her team at the Maritime Heart Centre (MHC) found that peer mentors can significantly influence the amount of physical activity children have throughout the school day.

The MHC team created a Heart Healthy Kids (H2K) Lunch programme, which included three games that peer mentors could lead during lunch time once every two weeks, according to a Maritime Heart Centre statement.

"Using positive influences on children to be physically active works," said Friesen."As in adults, if we can keep the activity levels high in kids over the long term, the ultimate result will be improved BMIs (height to weight ratio) and waist circumference measurements."

The H2K study tracked more than 800 students from 10 schools who used pedometers to track their daily steps. Pre- and post-study, all students were evaluated for waist circumference, height and weight and cardiovascular fitness. While there were improvements in cardiovascular fitness and heart health knowledge in both groups, the intervention schools had significantly increased activity levels and cardiovascular fitness.

Students selected as peer mentors, who were age mates with other team members (grades 4, 5 and 6), received training in organisation, positive feedback and team building. The project was funded by the Nova Scotia Research Foundation and supported by the the Heart and Stroke Foundation.


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