Increasing physical activity in young primary school children-it's child's play: A cluster randomised controlled trial

Lina Engelen*, Anita C. Bundy, Geraldine Naughton, Judy M. Simpson, Adrian Bauman, Jo Ragen, Louise Baur, Shirley Wyver, Paul Tranter, Anita Niehues, Wendy Schiller, Gabrielle Perry, Glenda Jessup, Hidde P. van der Ploeg

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    97 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To explore the effects of an innovative school-based intervention for increasing physical activity. Methods: 226 children (5-7. years old) randomly selected from 12 Australian primary schools were recruited to a cluster randomised trial with schools randomly allocated to intervention or control conditions. The 13-week intervention comprised: (1) altering the school playground by introducing loose materials and (2) a teacher-parent intervention exploring perceptions of risk associated with children's free play. The primary outcomes were total accelerometer counts and moderate-vigorous physical activity during break times. Testing took place in Sydney, 2009-2010. Results: 221 participants were tested at baseline. Mixed-effect multilevel regression revealed a small but significant increase from the intervention on total counts (9400 counts, 95% CI 3.5. -. 15.2, p. =. 0.002) and minutes of MVPA (1.8. min, 95% CI 0.5-3.1, p. =. 0.006); and a decrease in sedentary activity (2.1. min, 95% CI 0.5-3.8, p. =. 0.01) during break times. We retested children in one intervention school after 2. years; they maintained the gains. Conclusions: Capturing children's intrinsic motivations to play while simultaneously helping adults reconsider views of free play as risky provided increases in physical activity during break times. Using accelerometry as the sole measure of physical activity may underestimate the effect.Trial registration: ACTRN12611000089932.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)319-325
    Number of pages7
    JournalPreventive Medicine
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2013


    Dive into the research topics of 'Increasing physical activity in young primary school children-it's child's play: A cluster randomised controlled trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this