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Br J Sports Med. 2008 Aug;42(8):653-7.

Effectiveness of interventions to promote physical activity in children and adolescents: systematic review of controlled trials.

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To review the published literature on the effectiveness of interventions to promote physical activity in children and adolescents.


Systematic review.


Literature search using PubMed, SCOPUS, Psychlit, Ovid Medline, Sportdiscus, and Embase up to December 2006.


Two independent reviewers assessed studies against the following inclusion criteria: controlled trial, comparison of intervention to promote physical activity with no intervention control condition, participants younger than 18 years, and reported statistical analyses of a physical activity outcome measure. Levels of evidence, accounting for methodological quality, were assessed for three types of intervention, five settings, and three target populations.


The literature search identified 57 studies: 33 aimed at children and 24 at adolescents. Twenty four studies were of high methodological quality, including 13 studies in children. Interventions that were found to be effective achieved increases ranging from an additional 2.6 minutes of physical education related physical activity to 283 minutes per week of overall physical activity. Among children, limited evidence for an effect was found for interventions targeting children from low socioeconomic populations, and environmental interventions. Strong evidence was found that school based interventions with involvement of the family or community and multicomponent interventions can increase physical activity in adolescents.


Some evidence was found for potentially effective strategies to increase children's levels of physical activity. For adolescents, multicomponent interventions and interventions that included both school and family or community involvement have the potential to make important differences to levels of physical activity and should be promoted. A lack of high quality evaluations hampers conclusions concerning effectiveness, especially among children.

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