Children’s Cortisol and Cell-Free DNA Trajectories in Relation to Sedentary Behavior and Physical Activity in School: A Pilot Study, 7(26)
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Original versionBecker, C., Schmidt, S., Neuberger, E.W.I. et al. (2019) Children’s Cortisol and Cell-Free DNA Trajectories in Relation to Sedentary Behavior and Physical Activity in School: A Pilot Study. Frontiers in Public Health, 10.3389/fpubh.2019.00026
The worldwide prevalence of mental disorders in children and adolescents increased constantly. Additionally, the recommended amount of physical activity (PA) is not achieved by this age group. These circumstances are associated with negative impacts on their health status in later life and can lead to public health issues. The exposure to natural green environments (NGE) seems to be beneficial for human health. The compulsory school system offers great opportunities to reach every child with suitable health-related contents and interventions at an early stage. The concept of Education Outside the Classroom (EOtC) uses NGE and sets focus on PA. Therefore, EOtC might be a beneficial educational intervention to promote students health. The association between biological stress markers and sedentary behavior (SB) plus PA is insufficiently evaluated in school settings. This exploratory study aims to evaluate the association between students' cortisol, plus circulating cell-free deoxyribonucleic acid (cfDNA) levels, and their SB, light PA (LPA), and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA). We assessed data from an EOtC program (intervention group [IG], n = 37; control group [CG], n = 11) in three seasons (fall/spring/summer) in outdoor lessons (IG) in a NGE and normal indoor lessons (CG). SB and PA were evaluated by accelerometry, and cortisol and cfDNA levels by saliva samples. Fitted Bayesian hierarchical linear models evaluated the association between cortisol and cfDNA, and compositional SB/LPA/MVPA. A steady decline of cortisol in the IG is associated with relatively high levels of LPA (posterior mean = −0.728; credible interval [CRI 95%]: −1.268; −0.190). SB and MVPA tended to exhibit a similar effect in the CG. A high amount of cfDNA is positively associated with a relatively high amount of SB in the IG (posterior mean, 1.285; CRI: 0.390; 2.191), the same association is likely for LPA and MVPA in both groups. To conclude, LPA seems to support a healthy cortisol decrease in children during outdoor lessons in NGEs. Associations between cfDNA and SB/PA need to be evaluated in further research. This study facilitates the formulation of straightforward and directed hypotheses for further research with a focus on the potential health promotion of EOtC.