An international team of scientists led by the University of Granada (UGR) has defended the role of physical education (PE) teachers in secondary schools as the point of entry to the public health system.
Their work has shown that performing some simple aerobic exercises in PE classes can help identify which children are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in the future. This would permit earlier intervention programs to prevent illness, with the consequent economic savings for the health system.
In an article published in the prestigious British journal Heart, the researchers analyzed a sample of 510 adolescents from 9 European countries, aged between 12 and 17 years.
All of them were considered to have the ideal cardiovascular profile according to the American Heart Association (AHA). This combines nutritional and metabolic markers, and blood lipids, to provide a comprehensive assessment of each participant's level of cardiovascular risk. The ideal cardiovascular profile is calculated by combining physical activity, body mass index, diet, cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure and smoking.
'Shuttle run test'
Scientists determined that the '20 meter shuttle run test'-a simple test consisting of running 20 m at a gradually increasing speed-"is a great way to identify at an early stage which children have a less healthy cardiovascular profile and, therefore, a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future ", says UGR researcher Jonatan Ruiz, principal author. The '20 m shuttle run test' is currently used in most schools in Spain, as in many European countries, to measure children's levels of physical fitness.
This study determined that the test can also be used to identify which children have worse cardiovascular and respiratory health and, therefore, should be subjected to an intervention program to improve this.
Jonatan Ruiz says that studies like this "show that the school is an excellent place to obtain information about the health of our children and adolescents, and to intervene prematurely". He is convinced that PE teachers "can play a much more important role than they currently do within the health system because they are highly important agents".