Feasibility, acceptability and potential efficacy of a virtual physical activity program in primary and secondary schools in New South Wales, Australia: A quasi-experimental study
Health Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue Addressed: Child and youth participation in physical activity (PA) is fundamental for healthy development and obesity prevention. Government policy requires schools to offer 150 minutes of PA each week, however compliance is low. Race around Australia (RAA) is a New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education, virtual PA program aimed at assisting schools in meeting the PA guidelines. Methods: A pre- and post-intervention, quasi-experimental study was conducted using a mixed-methods approach comprising teacher interviews, a student questionnaire and a 1.6 kilometre (km) timed run. Data were collected from April to September 2021 among students and teachers in Grades 5 to 8, from 10 schools in NSW, Australia. Results: The analytical sample included data from 918 students and 17 teachers. The RAA program was deemed feasible and acceptable in primary schools, whereas there were several systemic and intrapersonal barriers to implementation success for secondary schools. In primary schools, RAA increased PA opportunities and the 1.6 km timed runs revealed a statistically significant treatment by time effect in favour of the intervention group for cardiorespiratory fitness (−36.91 seconds, 95% CI [−63.14, −10.68], P =.006). Conclusions: RAA has demonstrated feasibility and potential efficacy in improving cardiorespiratory fitness. We recommend that program refinement be made to deliver an intervention that addresses the unique barriers of the secondary school setting through a multi-level ecological approach. So What?: Despite evident benefits, implementation of PA initiatives in the school setting reveals many challenges. Stronger consideration of the Health Promotion with Schools Framework is evidently needed.
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NSW Ministry of Health