A physical activity intervention to increase the level of physical fitness among boys aged 14-15 years in Jeddah City, Saudi Arabia

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The prevalence of obesity is increasing world-wide and is estimated to continue to increase over the next decade (Hruby & Hu 2015). The focus of this study is on childhood overweight and obesity in Saudi Arabia. Limited research has been conducted and consequently a limited amount of information is available on the level of obesity in Saudi children and adolescence. The project involved the design, development and assessment of a physical activity intervention to improve physical fitness, increase physical activity levels and promote weight loss among school boys aged between 14 and 15 years living in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The study is innovative in that it utilised a popular children’s sport (soccer) in Saudi Arabia to improve levels of physical fitness and that the activity took place out of the school environment in a free government-run facility. The report of research presented in this thesis begins with a comprehensive review of published literature on obesity interventions and school-based PA programs. The project used mixed methods research methodology. Qualitative data were generated from semi-structured interviews with school principals and teachers and used to inform the development of an obesity-related PA intervention program. Quantitative data were collected as part of a randomised controlled trial (RCT). The RCT was used to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of a 12-week PA intervention program based on soccer, conducted in after-school hours at a local government sports centre. The results showed that the intervention group significantly improved in the vertical jump test (p<0.001) and the Illinois agility test (p<0.001) over the 12 weeks (pre-test vs. post- test). Mean scores for the control group did not differ significantly over the 12 weeks (pre-test vs. post-test) in any of the three physical fitness measures or in terms of BMI. The intervention group differed significantly from the control group in terms of mean differences for outcomes in the beep test (p<0.001), vertical jump test (p<0.001), Illinois agility test (p<0.001) and BMI (p=0.006), with the intervention group improving relative to the control group across all four measures. These findings can inform future research on obesity-related PA intervention programs for adolescents in other nations that face a similar childhood obesity pandemic. The study concludes with a number of recommendations, including that the government provide additional sports centres across Saudi Arabia.
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