Children and Physical Activity: A Systematic Review of Barriers and Facilitators

Physical activity promotion is high on the public health policy agenda in the UK.

Evidence regarding increased prevalence of obesity amongst children in the UK is mounting. Available data on levels of physical activity amongst children and young people suggest that levels begin to decline as children reach their teenage years.

Promoting physical activity amongst children is considered to be particularly important as it may help to prevent this decline and encourage life-long physical activity habits. There is some evidence to suggest that material and social context affect children’s participation in physical activity, with lower levels of physical activity and higher levels of sedentary activity reported amongst groups considered to be ‘socially excluded’. However little is known about how different social factors such as gender, social class and ethnicity interact, and about where and how to intervene successfully.

This report describes a systematic review aiming to survey what is known about the barriers to, and facilitators of, physical activity amongst children aged four to 10. It is the first of two concerned with children aged four to 10 years; the second will focus on healthy eating. Both these reviews bring together the findings of ‘qualitative’ as well as ‘quantitative’ research, a task which is rarely attempted within a systematic review.

Brunton G, Harden A, Rees R, Kavanagh J, Oliver S, Oakley A (2003) Children and Physical Activity: A systematic review of barriers and facilitators – Executive Summary. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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