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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A systematic review of intervention effects on potential mediators of children’s physical activity

Helen Brown1*, Clare Hume1, Natalie Pearson2 and Jo Salmon1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

2 School of Sport, Exercise & Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:165  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-165

Published: 23 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Many interventions aiming to increase children’s physical activity have been developed and implemented in a variety of settings, and these interventions have previously been reviewed; however the focus of these reviews tends to be on the intervention effects on physical activity outcomes without consideration of the reasons and pathways leading to intervention success or otherwise.

To systematically review the efficacy of physical activity interventions targeting 5-12 year old children on potential mediators and, where possible, to calculate the size of the intervention effect on the potential mediator.

Methods

A systematic search identified intervention studies that reported outcomes on potential mediators of physical activity among 5-12 year old children. Original research articles published between 1985 and April 2012 were reviewed.

Results

Eighteen potential mediators were identified from 31 studies. Positive effects on cognitive/psychological potential mediators were reported in 15 out of 31 studies. Positive effects on social environmental potential mediators were reported in three out of seven studies, and no effects on the physical environment were reported. Although no studies were identified that performed a mediating analysis, 33 positive intervention effects were found on targeted potential mediators (with effect sizes ranging from small to large) and 73% of the time a positive effect on the physical activity outcome was reported.

Conclusions

Many studies have reported null intervention effects on potential mediators of children’s physical activity; however, it is important that intervention studies statistically examine the mediating effects of interventions so the most effective strategies can be implemented in future programs.

Keywords:
Mediator; Child; Physical activity promotion; Theory