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We Run This City: Impact of a Community–School Fitness Program on Obesity, Health, and Fitness
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    The We Run This City (WRTC) Youth Marathon Program is a community-supported, school-based fitness program designed to increase physical activity in a large, urban school district by engaging middle school youth to train 12 to 14 weeks to run or walk 1.2 miles, 6.2 miles, or 13.1 miles of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effect of the intervention on adolescent health.


    We assessed changes in obesity, health, and fitness, measured before training and postintervention, among 1,419 sixth- to eighth-grade students participating in WRTC for the first time, with particular interest in the program’s effect on overweight (85th–94th body mass index percentile) or obese (≥95th percentile) students. We collected data from 2009 through 2012, and analyzed it in 2016 and 2017. Outcomes of interest were body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), elevated blood pressure, and fitness levels evaluated by using the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) test and the sit-to-stand test.


    We saw significant improvements overall in fitness and blood pressure. Controlling for demographics, program event, and training dosage, BMI percentile increased among normal weight participants and decreased among overweight and obese participants (P < .001). WHR increased among obese participants, whereas reductions in blood pressure among those with elevated blood pressure were associated with higher amounts of training and lower baseline BMI.


    Even small amounts of regular physical activity can affect the health and fitness of urban youths. School–community partnerships offer a promising approach to increasing physical activity by supporting schools and making a school-based activity inclusive, fun, and connected to the broader fitness community.

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