School-based interventions may be effective at increasing levels of physical activity (PA) among adolescents; however, there is a paucity of evidence on whether walking can be successfully promoted to increase PA in this age group. This pilot study aimed to assess the effects of a 12-week school-based peer-led brisk walking programme on levels of school-time PA post intervention.
Female participants, aged 11–13 years, were recruited from six post-primary schools in Northern Ireland. Participants were randomized by school (cluster) to participate in regular 10–15-min peer-led brisk walks throughout the school week (the WISH study) (n = 101, two schools) or to continue with their usual PA (n = 98, four schools). The primary outcome measure was school-time PA post intervention (week 12), assessed objectively using an Actigraph accelerometer. Secondary outcome measures included anthropometry, cardiorespiratory fitness and psychosocial measures. Changes in PA data between baseline (T0) and end of intervention (week 12) (T1) were analysed using a mixed between-within subjects analysis of variance with one between (group) and one within (time) subjects factor, with two levels.
Of 199 participants recruited (mean age = 12.4 ± 0.6 years, 27% overweight/obese), 187 had valid accelerometer data for inclusion in subsequent analysis. A significant interaction effect was observed for changes in light intensity PA across the school day (p = 0.003), with those in the intervention increasing their light intensity PA by 8.27 mins/day compared with a decrease of 2.14 mins/day in the control group. No significant interactions were observed for the other PA measures across the intervention. Intervention effects on school-time PA were not sustained four months post intervention.
The intervention increased daily light intensity PA behaviour in these adolescent girls but did not change moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). These findings suggest that a school-based brisk walking intervention may be feasible and can change PA behaviour in the short term, but it is possible that the self-selected walking speeds determined by a peer-leader may not be sufficient to reach MVPA in this age group. Further research is needed to evaluate the potential of school-based brisk walking to contribute to MVPA in adolescent girls.
ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02871830. Registered on 16 August 2016)