Examining the effectiveness of school-based initiatives to increase student moderate- to vigorous- intensity physical activity participation in a sample of Ontario and Alberta secondary schools in the COMPASS study

  • Author / Creator
    Hunter, Stephen SG
  • Background: Regular participation in moderate-to vigorous- intensity physical activity (MVPA) is associated with multiple health benefits. However, adolescence is a period of time characterised by low physical activity participation. As a result, very few Canadian adolescents are active enough to receive optimal health benefits. One setting that has been identified as having the potential for physical activity promotion and intervention is the school. Schools reach a large proportion of adolescents and can offer both structured and unstructured opportunities to be active. However, school-based physical activity interventions for adolescents remain largely ineffective. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to examine how naturally-occurring changes to school physical activity policy, recreational programming, use of public health resources, and the physical environment, impact adolescent MVPA over a 1-year period. Methods: Quasi-experimental longitudinal data was collected from grade 9-12 students (mean age = 15.1± 0.02 years) in year 2 (n=45,298) and year 3 (n=42,355) of the COMPASS study. Corresponding school-level data was collected from 89 administrators, and 89 schools enrolled in COMPASS from Ontario and Alberta, Canada. Only students, administrators, and schools that had complete data in both year 2 (2013-2014) and year 3 (2013-2014) were included in this thesis. This resulted in 18,777 students, and 86 administrators from 86 schools. Self-reported MVPA was measured at both time points via the COMPASS Student Questionnaire. Changes to physical activity policies, recreational programming, public health resources, and the physical environment were self-reported by school administrators via the COMPASS School Policies and Practices Questionnaire. Objective measurements of the quantity and condition of physical activity facilities were recorded using the COMPASS Environment Application, a hand-held device with image capturing capabilities. Multi-level modeling was used to examine change in student MVPA between schools that made and did not make a physical activity related change. Models were adjusted for several student-level (age, sex, weekly spending money, typical PA, physical education enrolment) and school-level (school size, school location, and school area level socioeconomic status) confounders. Results: Over the 1-year period, 70% (61/86) of schools made physical activity related changes. Of these, 66% (40/61) of schools seemed to make positive changes (e.g., added programs, equipment, and facilities); whereas, 34% (21/61) of schools seemed to make negative changes (e.g., removed programs, equipment, facilities). Compared to the control group of schools that made no physical activity changes, a significant change in student MVPA was only observed in 15% (9/61) of the schools that made changes, and a significant increase in student MVPA was only observed in 7% (4/61) of the schools that made changes. More specifically, opening the fitness centre at lunch (β=17.2, 95%CI: 2.6-31.7), starting an out-and-abouters club (β=17.8, 95%CI:7.4-28.1), adding a bike rack (β =14.9, 95%CI:0.7-29.1), and adding a weightlifting and run/walk club, archery, figure skating, increasing access to the sports field; and improving condition of the outdoor basketball court (β=15.5, 95%CI: 5.2-25.7) was associated with a significant increase in student MVPA, compared to the control group. Conclusions: Changes that included adding or increasing access to fitness centres and fields during lunch, and adding multiple recreational opportunities seemed to be effective for increasing student MVPA over the 1-year period. Given the specificity of results, a one-size fits all approach may not be effective for increasing physical activity for adolescents. Instead, administrators may also need to consider the resources within and surrounding their school, and the interests of their students when thinking about making changes to increase students’ MVPA.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Storey, Kate (School of Public Health)
    • Maraj, Brian (Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Leatherdale, Scott (School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo)
    • Raine, Kim (School of Public Health)
    • Carson, Valerie (Physical Education and Recreation)