Teenagers Keeping ACTIVE – What Does the Research Say to Date?

Published on: 10th July 2017

Teenagers are spending more and more time in front of screens watching television, using a computer or playing video games, which results in them spending less time doing exercise. Physical inactivity is one of the most important issues in public health today, with heart disease killing around one in four people in the UK. It has been linked to heath issues later in life and is considered a key contributor to increased obesity.

The ACTIVE project, led by a team of researchers at The Farr Institute, Swansea University, are assessing whether giving teenagers vouchers to spend on activities of their choice can improve their health. Six months into the project, the research team’s key findings around fitness have been revealing, with 74% of pupils studied being classed as unfit and 82% of that number being girls. The research has also revealed that 16% had high blood pressure. Feedback from the students has shown that the barriers of cost, access and locality are the main reasons they feel for them not being active. The students have made several recommendations including lowering the cost of activities, improving the locality of physical exercise opportunities and making activities more specific and enjoyable for teenagers.

The project is funded by the British Heart Foundation aims to see whether giving teenagers vouchers to spend on activities of their choice – whether it’s dancing, football, swimming, karate, skateboarding or BMXing – can reduce the time spent being sedentary, improve fitness, lower the risk of heart disease and improve general health. Research has shown that physical activity can control weight, reduce stress and even result in a higher IQ.

The team are studying Year 9 students from seven schools across Swansea including Pentrehafod, Bishop Vaughan, YGG Bryn Tawe, Cefn Hengoed, Birchgrove, Dylan Thomas and Morriston Comprehensive Schools. Four schools are intervention schools, where the pupils receive £20 per month in vouchers, to spend on physical activities of their choice. The other schools act as a comparison group and continue as usual.

Michaela James, ACTIVE Project Manager commented: “The response to the ACTIVE Project from both pupils and teachers has been very positive. It is a constantly evolving and dynamic project that promises to provide exciting physical activity prospects for teenagers in Swansea. We are very much looking forward to the next six months of the study!”

The Project will come to a close at the end of the year when a final report on the findings and recommendations will be published. The report’s intention will be to show how we might help teenagers become more active, and the impact the project had on the health of teenagers. The report will also focus on any cost saving benefits, for example, did the students receiving the vouchers see a reduction in the number of visits to their GP.

Follow the ACTIVE project on Twitter @ActiveProject_

For more information on ACTIVE contact Sarah Toomey, Communications Officer, Farr Institute Swansea University

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