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Roy J. Shephard and François Trudeau

It is now well-established that well-designed programs can induce short-term gains in aerobic fitness, muscular strength, and physical performance, although during the primary school years, gains may be somewhat less than in adults. Long-term effects have as yet had little investigation. Most studies have looked simply at the tracking of activity patterns and associated lifestyle variables, usually from mid or late adolescence into early adult life. Although statistically significant, such tracking has been relatively weak. Further, in the absence of an experimental intervention, such studies provide little information on the long-term health value of physical education. The potential for obtaining definitive information is suggested by a long-term (20+ year) follow-up of participants in the Trois Rivières study. This program was well-perceived by participants, and the data obtained on adults suggest it may have had some favorable long-term impact on activity patterns, physiological parameters, and smoking behavior.

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Roy J. Shephard and François Trudeau

This article looks retrospectively at lessons learned from the Trois-Rivières physical education study. A brief review of the experimental design shows 546 students assigned by class cohort to either an additional 5 hours of quality physical education per week in grades 1 through 6, or a control treatment (minimal physical education by the homeroom teacher). Strengths of the study include a quasi-experimental design, a prolonged and well-defined intervention, assessment of compensation for the program, continuation of observations into middle age, collection of data in urban and rural environments, consistency of teaching staff and technical personnel, documentation of changes in academic achievement, assessment of bone maturation, a carefully constructed database, and control for cross-contamination. Limitations include some secular change, limited information on pubertal stages, difficulty in generalizing findings to an English-speaking environment, and some rigidity in the statistical design. The study demonstrates that cardiorespiratory function, muscle strength, and field performance can all be enhanced in primary school with no negative impact on academic work. Further, attitudes, behavior, and function are favorably influenced in adults. Future studies should seek out stable populations, define interventions closely, contract with participants for a long-term follow-up, and assess the immediate and long-term impact on health and function. Above all, there is a need for a dedicated principal investigator who will devote his or her entire career to the longitudinal study.

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François Trudeau, Louis Laurencelle, and Roy J. Shephard

The purpose of this study was to examine the possible influence of childhood physical fitness on physical activity level and some of its psychosocial determinants as an adult. Childhood (age 10–12 years) data from the longitudinal Trois-Rivières Growth and Development Study (body mass index, Physical Work Capacity (PWC170)), number of sit-ups/min, left + right hands grip strength) were correlated with adult data (age 35.0 ± 0.3 years) for physical activity (PA) level, attitude toward PA, intention to exercise, perceived barriers to exercise and support of an active lifestyle by significant others. No significant relationships between childhood physical fitness and adulthood PA were found. Although the sample size is relatively small, our data suggest that the preadolescent physical fitness level has no measurable impact on adult habitual PA, attitudes toward PA, intentions to exercise, perceived barriers to exercise or support from the individual’s entourage.

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Richard Larouche, Louis Laurencelle, Roy J. Shephard, and Francois Trudeau

Background:

Several studies have reported an age-related decline of physical activity (PA). We examined the impact of 4 important transitional periods—adolescence, the beginning of postsecondary education, entry into the labor market, and parenthood—on the PA of participants in the Trois-Rivières quasi-experimental study.

Methods:

In 2008, 44 women and 42 men aged 44.0 ± 1.2 years were given a semistructured interview; the frequency and duration of physical activities were examined during each of these transition periods. Subjects had been assigned to either an experimental program [5 h of weekly physical education (PE) from Grades 1 to 6] or the standard curriculum (40 min of weekly PE) throughout primary school.

Results:

The percentage of individuals undertaking ≥ 5 h of PA per week decreased from 70.4% to 17.0% between adolescence and midlife. The largest decline occurred on entering the labor market (from 55.9% to 23.4%). At midlife, there were no significant differences of PA level between experimental and control groups. Men were more active than women at each transition except for parenthood.

Conclusions:

Our results highlight a progressive nonlinear decline of PA involvement in both groups. Promotion initiatives should target these periods to prevent the decline of PA.

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François Trudeau, Louis Laurencelle, Janie Tremblay, Mirjana Rajic, and Roy J. Shephard

The purpose of this project was to undertake a long-term follow-up of participants in the Trois-Rivières Growth and Development Study. Some 20 years after their initial involvement in the program, two groups were compared: experimental subjects (n =150) who had received 5 one-hour sessions of specialized physical education per week throughout their 6 years of primary school, and the original control group (n = 103). All subjects completed a questionnaire regarding current patterns of physical activity (PA), attitudes and beliefs about PA, and perceived barriers to PA. Principal results indicate: (a) More experimental than control women exercise 3 times or more per week, (b) experimental subjects more commonly perceived their health to be very good to excellent, (c) control subjects in general felt less psychological dependency on exercise, and (d) women in the experimental group had a lower relative risk of back problems.

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Richard Larouche, Joel D. Barnes, Sébastien Blanchette, Guy Faulkner, Negin A. Riazi, François Trudeau, and Mark S. Tremblay

Purpose: Children’s independent mobility (IM) may facilitate both active transportation (AT) and physical activity (PA), but previous studies examining these associations were conducted in single regions that provided limited geographical variability. Method: We recruited 1699 children (55.0% girls) in 37 schools stratified by level of urbanization and socioeconomic status in 3 regions of Canada: Ottawa, Trois-Rivières, and Vancouver. Participants wore a SC-StepRx pedometer for 7 days and completed a validated questionnaire from which we derived a 6-point IM index, the number of AT trips over a week, and the volume of AT to/from school (in kilometer per week). We investigated relationships among measures of IM, AT, and PA employing linear mixed models or generalized linear mixed models adjusted for site, urbanization, and socioeconomic status. Results: Each unit increase in IM was associated with 9% more AT trips, 19% higher AT volume, and 147 more steps per day, with consistent results across genders. Both measures of AT were associated with marginally higher PA when pooling boys’ and girls’ data. Children in Vancouver engaged in more AT. PA did not vary across site, urbanization, or socioeconomic status. Conclusion: IM was associated with more AT and PA regardless of where children lived, underscoring a need for IM interventions.