The school environment and adolescent physical activity and sedentary behaviour: a mixed-studies systematic review

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Abstract

There is increasing academic and policy interest in interventions aiming to promote young people's health by ensuring that the school environment supports healthy behaviours. The purpose of this review was to summarize the current evidence on school-based policy, physical and social-environmental influences on adolescent physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Electronic databases were searched to identify studies that (1) involved healthy adolescents (11–18 years old), (2) investigated school-environmental influences and (3) reported a physical activity and/or sedentary behaviour outcome or theme. Findings were synthesized using a non-quantitative synthesis and thematic analysis. Ninety-three papers of mixed methodological quality were included. A range of school-based policy (e.g. break time length), physical (e.g. facilities) and social-environmental (e.g. teacher behaviours) factors were associated with adolescent physical activity, with limited research on sedentary behaviour. The mixed-studies synthesis revealed the importance of specific activity settings (type and location) and intramural sport opportunities for all students. Important physical education-related factors were a mastery-oriented motivational climate and autonomy supportive teaching behaviours. Qualitative evidence highlighted the influence of the wider school climate and shed light on complexities of the associations observed in the quantitative literature. This review identifies future research needs and discusses potential intervention approaches to be considered.

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