Physical inactivity is a global pandemic and has been identified by the World Health Organisation, as a leading cause of premature death worldwide. Regular physical activity plays a critical role in preventing precursors to metabolic and cardiovascular ill health in children, providing numerous health benefits during childhood that persist into adulthood. The UK government recommends children should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity (MVPA) every day to benefit health, and that 30 minutes of this should occur during the school day. However, the majority of children and adolescents do not meet recommended levels and are therefore not sufficiently active to accrue the associated health benefits. Since physical inactivity is a major, yet modifiable, risk factor for the burden of disease, there is a need for effective, preventive interventions that aim to increase physical activity levels in children.  This theme aims to develop and evaluate novel ways to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour during the school day.

Specific Projects

Implementation and evaluation of a whole school approach to increasing children’s daily physical activity levels

Our theme has been working with colleague from Leeds Beckett University and a team of over 50 academics, policy makers and senior primary school staff to develop a whole school physical activity framework which builds physical activity into every aspect of the school culture and school day.  As part of Bradford’s Sport England Local Delivery Pilot called JU:MP (Join Us: Move Play).  Our theme will be working with 11 schools in 2019-2020 to action and implement the framework, using co-production methodology, and evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the project.  It is anticipated that in 2020-2023 the project will be rolled out to a further 20 schools in Bradford as part of the JU:MP whole systems approach to increasing physical activity for children and young people.

The feasibility, acceptability, and intervention development of wearable activity monitors to enhance exercise in school children and adolescents

Self-monitoring and feedback are fundamental to increasing awareness of individual physical activity levels, which is particularly important given that young people are unlikely to change their behaviour if they do not know how active they actually are. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in emerging technologies and wearable sensors as self-monitoring tools such as FitBitsTm for promoting physical activity levels. The proliferation of wearable activity trackers, as well as their growing commercial availability, popularity, and widespread adoption, presents an opportunity to integrate such technologies into physical activity interventions. The literature reports that there is some initial evidence that wearable activity trackers can increase physical activity levels; however this was with adults not children. Given that engagement with technology is a highly valued behaviour for young people and plays an important role in different domains of their lives (eg, education, socialization, and entertainment), this study will establish whether wearable activity trackers are feasible, acceptable and effective in changing physical activity levels in children and adolescents.

Stand Out in Class

Excessive sedentary behaviour (sitting) is a risk factor for poor health in children and adults. Incorporating sit-stand desks in the classroom environment has been highlighted as a potential strategy to reduce children’s sedentary time. Our theme have previously worked with colleagues at Loughborough, Leicester, York and Deakin (Melbourne, Australia) Universities  to conducting a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a sit-stand desk with eight primary school, year 5 classrooms in Bradford.  Six sit-stand desks replaced three standard desks (sitting 6 children) in the intervention classrooms for 4.5-months.  Teachers used a rotation system to ensure all pupils were exposed to the sit-stand desks for >1 hour/day on average.

A preliminary estimate of intervention effectiveness revealed significant reductions in daily sitting time.   Qualitative measures revealed the intervention and evaluation procedures were acceptable to teachers and children, except minor issues around activPAL attachment.  This study provides evidence of the acceptability and feasibility of a sit-stand desk intervention and evaluation methods. Preliminary evidence suggests the intervention showed potential in reducing children’s weekday sitting time.  Our theme is now planning to submit a grant application to test the intervention in a full cluster RCT.

Research outputs

Clemes, S. A., Bingham, D. D., Pearson, N., Chen, Y. L., Edwardson, C., McEachan, R., … & Bandelow, S. (2018). Stand Out in Class: restructuring the classroom environment to reduce sedentary behaviour in 9–10-year-olds—study protocol for a pilot cluster randomised controlled trial. Pilot and feasibility studies4(1), 103.

Meet the team

Dr Sally Barber

Action Project Leader and Principle Research Fellow

Dr Daniel Bingham

Senior Research Fellow

Amy Creaser

PhD Student