Body mass index and level of physical activity among primary school children in Pretoria, South Africa

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Linda Skaal
Bekhiwe Mtshali
A Human
N Sobantu


The purpose of the study was to determine the body mass index (BMI) and levels of physical activity among primary school children in Pretoria North, South Africa. A total of 1039 primary school children from grade 3 to 7 at Tshwane townships, suburbs, and informal settlements participated in the study. Six primary schools were selected to participate in the study. A questionnaire was used to collect data on physical activity, and anthropometric measurements were used to calculate BMI. The results showed that 24.2% of the children were overweight and 18.2% were underweight. The majority of those who were overweight were from the townships (82.0%) and 26.0% of those who were underweight were from the informal settlements. The majority of girls did not participate in physical activities after school (47.1%), during school (21.9%), and 86.8% of the children had low levels or did not participate in vigorous activities such as sport. This study found low levels of physical activity amongst primary school learners, which could have contributed to the high prevalence of overweight. Some children, especially from the informal settlements, were found to be underweight, which is in line with a dual burden of malnutrition amongst this population.

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