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Maura Coulter and Catherine B. Woods

Background:

The promotion of physical activity among young children has become a universal challenge. Children spend large amounts of time in school, making it an attractive setting in which to promote positive health behaviors. The purpose of this study was to investigate school-based physical activity behavior and its determinants in young Irish children.

Methods:

Participants self-reported school-based free-play activity, commuting to school behavior, and levels of enjoyment of physical education and physical activity.

Results:

Data were collected from 605 children, mean age was 8.8 years (±2.2; range 5−14 years), 44% were female. Thirty-nine percent of children actively commuted to school, with 40% of males compared with 34.8% of females walking to school. Boys reported more physically active free-play activity (88.6% at break and 90.9% at lunch time) compared with girls (70.8% and 83.7% respectively). Physical education was a top 3 favorite subject for 78% of children and 50.7% reported they would prefer to take part in more active pastimes directly after school.

Conclusions:

Strategies for increasing active commuting are required. Boys and girls are more alike than unlike in their behaviors and attitudes. Teachers should capitalize on the fact that children’s favorite subject is physical education to promote physical activity.

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Norah M. Nelson and Catherine B. Woods

Background:

Active commuting (AC) to school can increase daily minutes of physical activity yet research is lacking on its determinants. This study examined perceptions of the physical environment as a correlate of AC among adolescents.

Methods:

Cross-sectional data were collected from 1143 males and 1016 females (mean age 16.04 ± 0.66) who lived within 2.5 miles of their school. Participants’ self-reported active (walk or cycle) or inactive (car, bus, or train) mode of travel to school and perceptions of their neighborhood environment. Bivariate logistic regression examined perceived environmental features associated with active versus inactive modes, adjusted for sociodemographic factors. Significant variables were examined in multivariate models, adjusted for population density and distance.

Results:

Positive correlates of AC included well-lit streets, land-use-mix diversity, access to shops/public transport, the presence of public parks/bike lanes, and accessible well-maintained paths. Connectivity was unrelated to mode choice. In multivariate analyses, land-use-mix diversity, and the perceived presence of public parks remained significant among males, whereas excess traffic speed, shops within walking distance, and paths separate from the road remained significant among females.

Conclusions:

Environmental characteristics were associated with active commuting to school, however research must address methodological issues before making recommendations for intervention.

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Antonia M. Martin and Catherine B. Woods

Purpose:

Research addressing methods to sustain long-term adherence to physical activity among older adults is needed. This study investigated the motivations and supports deemed necessary to adhere to a community-based cardiac rehabilitation (CBCR) program by individuals with established coronary heart disease.

Methods:

Twenty-four long-term adherers (15 men, 9 women; age 67.7 ± 16.7 yr) took part in focus-group discussions.

Results:

Constant comparative analysis supported previous research in terms of the importance of referral procedures, social support, and knowledge of health benefits in influencing uptake and adherence to CBCR. Results also highlighted the routine of a structured class and task-, barrier-, and recovery-specific self-efficacy as necessary to sustain long-term adherence for this specific clinical group.

Discussion:

Older adults themselves provide rich information on how to successfully support their long-term adherence to structured exercise sessions. Further research into how to build these components into any exercise program is necessary.

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Michelle Hardie Murphy, David Anthony Rowe and Catherine B. Woods

Background:

The contribution of sports related factors to predicting long-term physical activity (PA) are unclear. The purpose of this study is to examine tracking of PA during key transition periods in youth and to determine the longitudinal associations between sports club participation and PA.

Methods:

Participants (n = 873, baseline age 10 to 18 years) completed self-report surveys in 2009 and 2014 that included the PACE+ PA tool and sports club participation questions. Spearman correlations assessed PA tracking. ANCOVA analyses examined predictors (sports participation at baseline) of PA (follow-up), adjusting for (a) age and sex; and (b) age, sex, and baseline PA.

Results:

Tracking of PA was weak-to-moderate (ρ = .16 to .47). Greater sports participation frequency at baseline significantly predicted PA at follow-up (P < .01). Involvement in club sports at an elite level had a medium-to-large effect on PA levels 5 years later [d = .75 adjusting for (a); d = .60 adjusting for (b)].

Conclusion:

PA should be promoted in youth as tracking coefficients suggest it can, to an extent, continue into later life. The standard achieved in sport has a role in predicting later PA. PA promotion strategies should include frequent, high quality opportunities for sports participation.

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Catherine B. Woods, Norah M. Nelson, Donal J. O’Gorman, Eimear Foley and Niall M. Moyna

Background:

The Take PART study—Physical Activity Research for Teenagers—was undertaken to assess (1) physical activity and sedentary behaviors, (2) indices of health and fitness, and (3) to provide information, from a social ecological perspective, on the correlates of physical activity in a large sample of 15- to 17-year-old Irish adolescents. This manuscript outlines the rationale and methodology of the Take PART study.

Methods:

A sample of 4720 students (mean age = 16.03 years ± 0.66, range 15 to 17 years; 49.5% female) participated. Fifty participants were assessed during each 3-hour school visit, with a ratio of 1 researcher to 10 students. Standardized testing procedures and extensive researcher training ensured that intertester and intratester reliability for all physical measures was ≥.85. The height, weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, blood pressure, and cardiorespiratory fitness protocols are explained. The questionnaire used well-known, valid, and reliable self-report measures. Where appropriate, additional psychometric testing was undertaken.

Conclusions:

Take PART is a school-based study. Its methods are simple, easy to replicate, financially viable, and scientifically valid. Its unique dataset will allow the evaluation of a social ecological approach as a viable option for improving understanding of youth inactivity. Ultimately, this knowledge will assist in successful intervention design.

Open access

Marie H. Murphy, Angela Carlin, Catherine Woods, Alan Nevill, Ciaran MacDonncha, Kyle Ferguson and Niamh Murphy

Background: Time spent in university represents a period of transition and may be an appropriate time to promote physical activity among young adults. The aim of this study was to assess participation of university students in sport and physical activity in Ireland and to explore the association between physical activity and perceptions of overall health, mental health, and happiness. Methods: The Student Activity and Sport Study Ireland was a cross-sectional online survey among a representative sample (n = 8122) of university students in Ireland. Binary logistic regressions were performed to examine associations between self-reported physical activity and gender (predictor variables) and individual perceptions of overall health, mental health, and happiness (binary outcomes). Results: Only 64.3% of respondents met the recommended level of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week with males significantly more active than females (72.1% vs 57.8% meeting guidelines). Those meeting physical activity guidelines were more likely to report greater overall health and higher mental health and happiness scores compared with their inactive peers. Conclusions: Active students enjoy better health (overall and mental) and are happier than their inactive peers. This provides a clear rationale for providing students with opportunities to be active at university. The data provide a baseline to monitor changes in physical activity patterns.

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Joseph J. Murphy, Ciaran MacDonncha, Marie H. Murphy, Niamh Murphy, Alan M. Nevill and Catherine B. Woods

Background: Although levels of physical activity (PA) have been researched, no information on how university students organize their PA across different life domains is available. The purpose of this study is to explore if and how students organize their PA across transport and recreational domains, and to identify the psychosocial factors related to these patterns. Methods: Students from 31 Irish universities completed a supervised online survey measuring participant characteristics, psychosocial factors, and PA. Two-step cluster analysis was used to identify specific PA patterns in students. Binary logistic regressions identified factors associated with cluster membership while controlling for age, sex, household income, and perceived travel time to a university. Results: Analysis was performed on 6951 students (50.7% male; 21.51 [5.55] y). One Low Active cluster emerged. Four clusters containing a form of PA emerged including Active Commuters, Active in University, Active Outside University, and High Active. Increases in motivation and planning improved the likelihood of students being categorized in a cluster containing PA. Conclusion: One size does not fit all when it comes to students PA engagement, with 5 patterns identified. Health professionals are advised to incorporate strategies for increasing students’ motivation, action planning, and coping planning into future PA promotion efforts.

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Deirdre M. Harrington, Sarahjane Belton, Tara Coppinger, Muireann Cullen, Alan Donnelly, Kieran Dowd, Teresa Keating, Richard Layte, Marie Murphy, Niamh Murphy, Elaine Murtagh and Catherine Woods

Background:

Physical activity (PA) levels are a key performance indicator for policy documents in Ireland. The first Ireland Report Card on Physical Activity in Children and Youth aims to set a robust baseline for future surveillance of indicators related to PA in children and youth.

Methods:

Data collected between 2003−2010 on more than 35,000 7- to 18-year-old children and youth were used and graded using a standardized grading system for 10 indicators.

Results:

Grades assigned for the indicators were as follows: overall physical activity levels, D-; sedentary behavior (TV viewing), C-; organized sport participation, C-: physical education, D-; active play, inconclusive (INC); active transportation, D; school, C-, community and the built environment, B; family, INC; and government, INC.

Conclusions:

PA recommendations exist in Ireland but this Report Card has shown that participation is still low. A number of promising policies, programs and services are in place but these require thorough evaluation and adequate resourcing. Agreement and implementation of a common framework for the systematic surveillance of indictors related to PA of children and youth is necessary to monitor change over time and ensure the impact of promising work is captured.

Open access

Deirdre M. Harrington, Marie Murphy, Angela Carlin, Tara Coppinger, Alan Donnelly, Kieran P. Dowd, Teresa Keating, Niamh Murphy, Elaine Murtagh, Wesley O’Brien, Catherine Woods and Sarahjane Belton

Background:

Physical activity (PA) is a key performance indicator for policy documents in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Building on baseline grades set in 2014, Ireland’s second Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth allows for continued surveillance of indicators related to PA in children and youth.

Methods:

Data and information were extracted and collated for 10 indicators and graded using an international standardized grading system.

Results:

Overall, 7 grades stayed the same, 2 increased, and 1 decreased. Grades were assigned as follows: Overall PA, D (an increase); Sedentary Behavior (TV), C-; Physical Education, D-; Active Play, Incomplete/Inconclusive (INC); Active Transportation, D; School, D (a decrease); Home (Family), INC; Community and the Built Environment, B+ (an increase); and Government, INC. Unlike 2014’s report card, different grades for the Republic (C-) and Northern Ireland (C+) were assigned for Organized Sport Participation.

Conclusions:

Although the grade for Overall PA levels increased to a D, this may reflect the increased quality and quantity of data available. The double burden of low PA and high sedentary levels are concerning and underscore the need for advocacy toward, and surveillance of, progress in achieving targets set by the new National Physical Activity Plan in the Republic and obesity and sport plans in the North.