Promoting physical activity among adolescent girls: the Girls in Sport group randomized trial

Anthony D Okely, David R. Lubans, Philip J. Morgan, Wayne Cotton, Louisa Peralta, Judith Miller, Marijka Batterham, Xanne Janssen

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Background: Slowing the decline in participation in physical activity among adolescent girls is a public health priority. This study reports the outcomes from a multi-component school-based intervention (Girls in Sport), focused on promoting physical activity among adolescent girls. Methods: Group randomized controlled trial in 24 secondary schools (12 intervention and 12 control). Assessments were conducted at baseline (2009) and at 18 months post-baseline (2010). The setting was secondary schools in urban, regional and rural areas of New South Wales, Australia. All girls in Grade 8 in 2009 who attended these schools were invited to participate in the study (N=1769). Using a Health Promoting Schools and Action Learning Frameworks, each school formed a committee and developed an action plan for promoting physical activity among Grade 8 girls. The action plan incorporated strategies in three main areas - i) the formal curriculum, ii) school environment, and iii) home/school/community links - based on the results of formative data from target girls and staff and on individual needs of the school. A member of the research team supported each school throughout the intervention. The main outcome measure was accelerometer-derived total physical activity (TPA) spent in physical activity. Data were analyzed from December 2011 to March 2012. Results: 1518 girls (mean age 13.6y ±0.02) were assessed at baseline. There was a significant decline in TPA from baseline to 18-month follow-up with no differences between girls in the intervention and control schools. Only one-third of schools (4/12) implemented the intervention as per their action plan. Per-protocol analyses on these schools revealed a smaller decline in percentage of time spent in MVPA among girls in the intervention group (adjusted difference 0.5%, 95% CI=-0.01, 0.99, P=0.05). Conclusions: The Girls in Sport intervention was not effective in reducing the decline in physical activity among adolescent girls. Lack of implementation by most intervention schools was the main reason for a null effect. Identifying strategies to enhance implementation levels is critical to determining the true potential of this intervention approach. Trial registration: This study was retrospectively registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610001077055. Date of registration: 7 December 2010.

Original languageEnglish
Article number81
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017


  • health promoting schools
  • physical activity
  • randomized controlled trials
  • rural
  • school
  • youth


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