Recommendations for research

The PDG recommends that the following research questions should be addressed. It notes that 'effectiveness' in this context relates not only to the size of the effect, but also to cost effectiveness and duration of effect. It also takes into account any harmful/negative side effects.

The PDG considered that research funding agencies should establish a nationally coordinated programme to evaluate the most effective and cost effective ways of increasing children and young people's physical activity levels.

1 Tools to measure physical activity

Develop valid, sensitive, and reliable tools to measure physical activity in children and young people. The tools should measure the amount and pattern of activity (including sedentary behaviour).

2 Research in the future

Future research should be conducted with greater rigour, improved study design, appropriate sample sizes, and valid and reliable measures of physical activity. It should include long-term follow-up of participants and monitoring of implementation fidelity. Studies should seek to identify causal pathways leading to a change in physical activity and health outcomes (such as a decrease in body fat and an increase in self-esteem). They should identify any potential mediating variables. They should also investigate the relationship between the length and intensity of the intervention and changes in physical activity (including sedentary behaviour).

3 Physical active mode of travel

Determine the most effective and cost-effective methods of increasing (and sustaining) the number and length of journeys children and young people take using a physically active mode of travel. The focus should be on journeys in the wider community (that is, not just on those to and from school).

4 Different types of physical activity

Determine the most effective and cost-effective methods of increasing and sustaining different types of physical activity among specific groups of children and young people. Groupings could be by: age, culture, ethnicity, disability (including families where someone else is disabled), gender, geographic area (for example, inner-city, urban, rural), religion or socioeconomic status. Particular attention should be given to disadvantaged groups. The interventions examined may target specific behaviours (for example, active play).

5 Displacing physical activity and sedentary behaviour

Determine to what extent different types of physical activity displace others and the factors leading to sedentary behaviour over time.

More detail on the evidence gaps identified during the development of this guidance is in appendix D.