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What do we know about physical activity interventions in vocational education and training? A systematic review

journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-23, 04:55 authored by E Grüne, J Popp, J Carl, K Pfeifer
Background: Although the health benefits of physical activity (PA) are well known, young people’s level of PA is often insufficient and tends to decline in adolescence. Numerous studies have investigated the effectiveness of PA-promoting interventions among young people, but none have reviewed the effectiveness of PA interventions in the vocational education and training (VET) setting. This systematic review aims to (1) synthesize and review the available literature on PA-promoting interventions in VET and (2) examine the effects of these interventions on PA-related outcomes such as PA level, physical fitness, physiological parameters, or psychological factors. Methods: Five electronic databases were searched for studies involving adolescents aged 15 to 20 years that took place in VET settings and evaluated the effects of interventions with a PA component on PA-related outcomes such as PA level, physical fitness, physiological parameters, or psychological factors. The screening process and the quality assessment were conducted by two independent reviewers; data extraction was conducted by one reviewer and verified by another. Results: The literature search identified 18,959 articles and 11,282 unique records. After the screening process, nine studies, all coming from European or Asian countries, met the pre-defined eligibility criteria and were included in qualitative analyses. All but two studies reported significant improvements for at least one PA-related outcome. The interventions substantially differed in their development approaches (top-down vs. bottom-up approaches), complexity (multi- vs. single-component), and addressed behavior (multi-behavioral vs. single-behavioral). The most conspicuous finding was that bottom-up approaches tend to improve outcomes at the psychological level and top-down approaches at the physical level. Regarding the interventions’ complexity and addressed behavior, we did not reveal any conclusive results. Conclusion: This systematic review highlights the varying effects of PA-promoting interventions in VET. Nevertheless, heterogeneous effects, overall weak study quality and availability of studies only from two continents limited our ability to draw clear conclusions about the potentially most effective intervention strategies. Therefore, future research should focus on high-quality studies with long-term follow-ups to make recommendations for practical use.



BMC Public Health



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