Physical activity and health education
in high school students

Lucía Rodríguez Guzmán, Francisco José Díaz Cisneros,
María Magdalena Nájera Garcidueñas
Instituto de Investigación sobre el Trabajo
Universidad de Guanajuato

In our country, cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of mortality1. In a previous study2, we showed that adolescents are at high risk for heart disease because they lack knowledge of the deleterious effects of smoking, high blood pressure, high fat diets, and lack of physical activity habits. In an attempt to correct this situation, our university established a community-based health education program to inform students of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and how to change their lifestyles to reduce these risk factors.

En nuestro país las enfermedades cardiovasculares son la primera causa de muerte1. En un estudio previo2, mostramos que los adolescentes están en alto riesgo de padecer enfermedades del corazón porque desconocen los efectos nocivos del tabaquismo, la presión elevada, la dieta con gran cantidad de grasa y la carencia hábitos de actividad física. En un intento por corregir esta situación, nuestra universidad estableció un programa de educación para la salud con el propósito de informar a los estudiantes adolescentes acerca de los factores de riesgo cardiovascular y cómo cambiar sus estilos de vida para reducir estos factores de riesgo.

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     Physical inactivity was recognized as an independent cardiovascular disease risk factor3.

     Recent studies have documented that many health-compromising behaviours that lead to adult morbidity and premature death, such as the poor dietary and exercise habits, begin during adolescence.

     Educational actions are essential in developing countries where lack of resources for pharmacological and intervention research occur. Health and physical education programs are cheaper and more feasible. Unfortunately, our people are ignorant of the role so deleterious of the diet and sedentary behaviours in the genesis of the cardiovascular diseases.

     In Mexico, there are very few reports concerning educational programs as a means to prevent chronic diseases. Mexican students rarely have knowledge around physical exercise and healthy lifestyles.

     The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of Health Education Program on knowledge of risk for heart disease in adolescents students.

    In this program, 446 high school students participated: 43% boys, and 57% girls. Age 14.8 yr. Mean

Adolescents attended:

  • Laboratory and classroom sessions.

  • Physical examination.

  • Evaluation for heart disease risk factors.

  • Performed a treadmill stress test.

  • Health promotion lectures.

  • Health education pamphlets.

  • Questionnaire to determine their level of understanding of the lecture.

     Following the Health Education Program, each student completed a questionnaire, that showed their level of understanding about several topics dealt with heart disease risk factors and the relation to smoking, blood pressure, diet, and physical activity.

    The results of the questionnaire were tabulated and revealed that the majority (94%) of the students understood the relation between physical inactivity and heart disease, and the type of exercise training program needed to produce an increase in aerobic capacity and reduce risk factors.

     In addition, 83% of them were able to identify the types of foods required to compose a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol. While 99% reported that they enjoyed the educational program, and 25% suggested that exercise testing and prescription become apart of their school program.

Fig.1 shows the general distribution of knowledge
of risk for heart disease in adolescents students.

  1. Relation between physical activity and heart disease.

  2. Type of exercise training needed to produce an increase in aerobic capacity.

  3. Foods required to compose a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol.

  4. Concept of body composition and ideal body weight.


    Our results indicate that adolescents desire to participate in Health Education Programs. They enjoyed to complete a physical evaluation and attended sessions and lectures about health promotion topics.

    The findings from this study also confirm that a Health Education Program can increase health knowledge of cardiovascular disease and may be one way to develop health habits leading to a reduction in risk factors.

    In addition, knowledge is more accessible, and thus more likely to be transferred to novel situations, when it is a central or integral part of our experiences. Constructivist theory insist that health promotion can be effective, and oriented toward student experiences4.

    The knowledge about physical exercise and health practices, as primary intervention, is probably the most important factor to prevent cardiovascular diseases, which have increased in our community from 1.5% to 20% over last 30 years.

    Patterns of activity and eating are established early in life. The heart attack of middle age has its root in childhood. Therefore, education should be a major component of every program of exercise, and educational programs should aim for control of cardiovascular risk factors early in life5.

    Current research on risk factors in adolescents is focused on interventions aimed at reducing the risk of heart disease through the earliest establishment of a risk-reducing lifestyle6.

    These studies suggest that preventive efforts on maintaining physical activity through puberty will have favourable health benefits in later years7.

    Health promotion activities developed by University of Guanajuato, Mexico should provide mutually reinforcing. One mechanism to implement this goal would be to develop community coordinating committees involving medical services, families, schools as well as adolescents, to identify and implement a comprehensive strategy of adolescent health promotion for each specific locale.

Fig. 2 shows our Model for increasing Physical Activity and Health in adolescents.
At the 21st Century, the university and educational system will have the most
important mission: to promote physical activity and health.


  1. Fernández, G. Situación y tendencias de la mortalidad en México: 1930-1993. Bol. Epidemiología. 15, 1995.

  2. Díaz, F.J. et al. The effect of diet and exercise upon cardiovascular risk factor in adolescents. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. Suppl., 29(5): 1354, 1997.

  3. Fletcher, G.F. et al. Statement on exercise: benefits and recommendations for physical activity programs for all Americans. Circulation 86:340-344, 1992.

  4. Butler, J.T. Principles of health education & health promotion. 2nd ed., Morton Publishing Company, 1997.

  5. Drake, D. and Ch. T. Kuntzleman. Early intervention. In Hall, L.K., G.C. Meyer (Eds.). Epidemiology, behavior chance, and intervention in chronic disease. Exercise and health series, Champaign, Illinois, 1988.

  6. Rocchini, A.P. Cardiovascular risk factors and prevention. In McAnarney, E.R., R.E. Kreipe, D.P. Orr, and G.D. Comerci (Eds.). Textbook of adolescent medicine. W.B. Saunders, 1992.

  7. Janz, F., J.D. Dawson, and L.T. Mahoney. Tracking physical fitness and physical activity from childhood to adolescence: the Muscative study. Med. Sci.Sports Exerc. 32(7): 1250-1257, 2000.

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