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Active Travel to School and Physical Activity Levels of Irish Primary Schoolchildren

Elaine M. Murtagh and Marie H. Murphy

The purpose of this study was to (1) determine the physical activity levels of 9–11 year old children, and (2) compare the activity levels of children who commute to school by active and passive modes. 140 children aged 9–11 years (85 boys) were recruited from four urban Irish schools. Mode of commuting was assessed by questionnaire. Step counts were measured for 4 consecutive days. Mean daily step counts for the sample were 14386 ± 5634. Boys were significantly more active than girls (15857 ± 5482 vs. 12113 ± 5127 steps). Eighty-seven children (62.1%) traveled by car, 51 children (36.4%) walked to school, one child traveled by bus and one child cycled. Children who walked or cycled to school had higher daily step counts than those who traveled by passive modes (16118 ± 5757 vs. 13363 ± 5332 steps). Active commuting to school may therefore represent a worthwhile strategy for improving children’s physical activity levels.

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Active Students Are Healthier and Happier Than Their Inactive Peers: The Results of a Large Representative Cross-Sectional Study of University Students in Ireland

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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Modifiable Behaviors Help to Explain the Inequalities in Perceived Health Associated With Deprivation and Social Class: Evidence From a National Sample

Alan Nevill, Paul Donnelly, Simon Shibli, Charlie Foster, and Marie Murphy

Background:

The association between health and deprivation is of serious concern to many health promotion agencies. The purpose of the current study was to assess whether modifiable behaviors of physical activity (PA), sports participation, diet, smoking and body mass index (BMI) can help to explain these inequalities in a sample of 4653 respondents from Northern Ireland.

Methods:

The study is based on a cross-sectional survey of Northern Irish adults. Responses to a self-rated health question were dichotomized and binary logistic regression was used to identify the health inequalities between areas of high, middle or low deprivation. These differences were further adjusted for other sociodemographic factors and subsequently for various modifiable behaviors of PA, sports participation, diet, smoking, and BMI.

Results:

Respondents from high and middle areas of deprivation are more likely to report poorer health. As soon as sociodemographic factors and other modifiable behaviors were included, these inequalities either disappeared or were greatly reduced.

Conclusion:

Many inequalities in health in NI can be explained by the respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics that can be further explained by introducing information about respondents who meet the recommended PA guidelines, play sport, eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, and maintain an optimal BMI.

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What Psychosocial Factors Determine the Physical Activity Patterns of University Students?

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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Irish Para Report Card on Physical Activity of Children and Adolescents With Disabilities

Kwok Ng, Sean Healy, Wesley O’Brien, Lauren Rodriguez, Marie Murphy, and Angela Carlin

For the first time, data on children and adolescents with disabilities in Ireland are reported based on the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance Para Report Card methodology. The most recent data from the last 10 years were used in the grading process (A+ to F), and indicators with insufficient data were graded as incomplete. Of the 10 indicators from the Global Matrix Para Report Cards, grades were assigned to Overall Physical Activity (F), Organized Sport (D), Active Transport (D−), Sedentary Behaviors (D−), Family & Peers (C), School (C−), Community & Environment (B−), and Government (B). Irish disability sport organizations were invited to assess the research-led audit and provided commentary around the final grading. The contextual discussion of the grades is presented through the lens of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with the purpose being to provide direction for the reduction of physical activity disparities among children with disabilities.

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Motives and Barriers to Physical Activity Among Older Adults of Different Socioeconomic Status

Phillip M. Gray, Marie H. Murphy, Alison M. Gallagher, and Ellen E. A. Simpson

This study explored motives and barriers to physical activity (PA) among older adults of differing socioeconomic status (SES) utilizing a self-determination theory and self-efficacy theory framework. Focus groups (n = 4) were conducted with older adults (n = 28) from two SES groups, using thematic analysis to identify motives and barriers. Integrated and identified regulations and, to a lesser extent, intrinsic motives, were evident across SES groups. Verbal persuasion and affective and physiological states emerged as prominent efficacy sources regardless of SES. More barriers were reported by the low SES group, with health conditions, neighborhood safety, and PA guidelines knowledge emerging as most salient. Time emerged as a prominent barrier for the high SES group. Integrated and identified regulations should be fostered in future interventions and policy regardless of SES. Barriers to PA varied across SES groups; thus future interventions and policy should account for such differences.

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Validation of the Digiwalker™ Pedometer for Measuring Physical Activity in Young Children

David P. McKee, Colin A.G. Boreham, Marie H. Murphy, and Alan M. Nevill

Activity measurement using a uniaxial pedometer was validated against behavioral observation using the Children’s Activity Rating Scale (CARS) in 30 three- to four-year-old children in a nursery school setting. Correlations were calculated for individual children, whereas the relationship for the total group was investigated using multilevel linear regression. The mean counts for boys and girls for the Digiwalker™ were 66.8 (± 64.0) and 47.4 (± 61.3; p < .01) steps per 3 minutes, respectively, whereas the mean CARS scores for boys and girls were 1.8 (± 0.6) and 1.6 (± 0.6; p < .01), respectively. Within-child correlations for CARS versus Digiwalker counts ranged from 0.64 to 0.95 with a median value of 0.86, whereas the multilevel analysis provided strong evidence of a relationship between CARS and Digiwalker (all p < .001). Data from the current study show that gender differences in physical levels exist in very young children and support the utility of the Digiwalker pedometer for assessing physical activity in this age group.

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The Association of Family, Friends, and Teacher Support With Girls’ Sport and Physical Activity on the Island of Ireland

Wesley O’Brien, Tara Coppinger, Irene Hogan, Sarahjane Belton, Marie H. Murphy, Cormac Powell, and Catherine Woods

Background: The current study was the largest physical activity (PA) surveillance assessment of youth undertaken in Ireland in recent years. The purpose of this research was to assess the impact of social support, while controlling for age and screen time, on PA and sport participation, across a representative sample of Irish female youth. Methods: A total of 3503 children (mean age: 13.54 [2.05] y) across the island of Ireland participated. Participants completed a previously validated electronic questionnaire while supervised in a classroom setting, which investigated their (1) levels of PA; (2) screen time; (3) community sport participation; and (4) social support (friend, family, and teacher) to be physically active/partake in sport. Results: There were significant differences, with medium and large effect sizes, for social support from friends and family across types of sports participation. Specifically, girls who participated in the most popular team sports, when compared with the most popular individual sports, reported higher social support scores for friends and family structures. Conclusions: Findings from this study confirm the contributing influence of friends and family as sport and PA support networks for girls. Interventions should consider the importance of culturally relevant team sports for PA engagement in female youth.

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Is Scotland Walking in the Right Direction? A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Trends in Walking by Socioeconomic Status

Tessa Strain, Paul Kelly, Rona Gibb, Mary Allison, Nanette Mutrie, and Marie Murphy

Background: Walking is a key target behavior for promoting population health. This paper charts the 30-year history of walking policy in Scotland. We assess whether population walking levels among adults in Scotland have changed in recent years and identify the characteristics of those least likely to report any walking. Methods: We pooled 9 years (2012–2019 and 2021) of data from adult (≥16 y) respondents of the Scottish Health Survey (n = 41,470). The outcomes of interest were the percentage reporting (1) any walking and (2) any walking with an average pace that is of at least moderate intensity. We also investigated the contribution of walking to total nonoccupational moderate to vigorous physical activity. We used linear and logistic regressions to test linear trends over time and to identify inequalities by age, sex, and the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation quintile. Results: There was an increase in all measures of walking over the period 2012–2021; for example, the percentage reporting any walking increased by 7 percentage points (81.4%–88.4%). Inequalities still exist by age, sex, and the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation but have not grown over time. Inequalities by sex and age are most pronounced in the least affluent Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation quintiles; less affluent older women are least likely to report any walking. Conclusions: Scotland appears to be walking in the right direction. Surveillance data support a positive trend after decades of policy and promotion efforts. The policies do not appear to be exacerbating existing inequalities, but narrowing them will require more concentrated efforts.

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Results from Ireland’s 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity in Children and Youth

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.