Assessment of Physical Education Time and After-School Outdoor Time in Elementary and Middle School Students in South Mexico City: The Dilemma between Physical Fitness and the Adverse Health Effects of Outdoor Pollutant Exposure

Anna Villarreal-Calderón, Hilda Acuña, Jessica Villarreal-Calderón, MÓnica Garduño, Carlos F. Henríquez-Roldán, Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, Gildardo Valencia-Salazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Strategies to promote lifelong physical activity among children are needed to stem the adverse health consequences of inactivity. However, the health effects in growing children of long-term exposure to a polluted atmosphere are of deep concern. The atmosphere of south Mexico City (SMC) is characterized by a complex mixture of air pollutants, including ozone, particulate matter, and aldehydes. Radiological evidence suggests that small-airway disease could be present in clinically healthy, tobacco unexposed SMC children. The aim of this study was to assess, by means of a self-reported questionnaire, the physical education class times, daily outdoor after-school exposure time, and tobacco exposure in students attending public elementary and middle schools in SMC. Additionally, the time each student spent viewing television was assessed, and the authors measured each student's weight and height to determine body mass index (BMI, weight in kg # height in m2). The survey included 1, 159 students in grades 7-9. The authors identified 2 critical periods of outdoor exposure in SMC children that coincided with significant concentrations of both ozone and particulate matter with diameters less than 10 micrometers (PM10): during school time after 11:00 A.M. and in the after-school outdoor activity period, usually extending from 1:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. Thirty-two percent of elementary and 61% of middle school students have physical education classes after 11:00 A.M. Students in SMC spend an average of 19.6 hr/wk outdoors in the after-school period, during which time they are engaged in light to moderate physical activities. Half of the students are exposed to tobacco smoke at home, and 7% of middle school students smoke. On the basis of BMI, 60% of students were classified as undernourished, overweight, or obese. No correlations were found between BMI and time spent viewing TV, time outdoors (on weekdays and weekends), or exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Children and adolescents in SMC are participating in physical activities that enhance multiple components of health-related fitness. However, their activities occur outdoors, where they are exposed to high concentrations of air pollutants throughout the year. The authors believe that SMC children and adolescents must be educated, through both the school and health systems, regarding ways to obtain the necessary exercise while protecting themselves from the high concentrations of pollutants. Individuals should instruct and encourage young people to be involved in lifetime fitness activities and to eat balanced diets, if the goal is to control health-care costs, reduce disease incidence, and improve the overall quality of life of the Mexico City population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-460
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Environmental Health
Volume57
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

Keywords

  • Children
  • Outdoor pollutant exposure
  • Ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Physical education
  • South mexico city

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