Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

A comprehensive physical activity promotion programme at elementary school: the effects on physical activity, physical fitness and psychosocial correlates of physical activity

Stefanie JM Verstraetea1a2 c1, Greet M Cardona1a2, Dirk LR De Clercqa1a2 and Ilse MM De Bourdeaudhuija1a2

a1 Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

a2 Policy Research Centre Sport, Physical Activity and Health, Belgium


Objective To evaluate the effects of a comprehensive physical activity (PA) promotion programme in elementary schools on children's total PA levels, leisure-time PA, physical fitness and psychosocial correlates of PA.

Design A pre-test–post-test design over two school years.

Setting and subjects Sixteen elementary schools (764 children, mean age: 11.2 ± 0.7 years) were randomly assigned to the intervention condition (n = 8) and the control condition (n = 8). The intervention included a health-related physical education programme, an extracurricular PA promotion programme and classroom-based PA education lessons. In the total sample, leisure-time PA, psychosocial correlates of PA and physical fitness were measured using a PA questionnaire and the Eurofit test battery. In a sub-sample, total PA levels were measured using an accelerometer.

Results According to accelerometer data, children's moderate PA and moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) levels decreased less in the intervention schools than in the control schools (P < 0.01). The average time spent on MVPA decreased by 9 min per day in the intervention schools compared with 33 min per day in the control schools. Children in the intervention schools reported significantly more moderate PA in leisure time than the controls (P < 0.05). No overall improvement of physical fitness and no effects on the psychosocial correlates of PA were found.

Conclusions The comprehensive PA promotion programme was successful in preventing a decline in children's total activity levels. Furthermore, the intervention increased children's PA engagement in leisure time. Therefore, implementation needs to be encouraged.

(Received August 24 2005)

(Accepted March 22 2006)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email