Top prize for child physical activity study

A Swansea University academic has picked up a prize for her study into the positive impact of physical activity on children’s long-term health in Wigan Borough.

Dr Kelly Mackintosh won top prize for Young Investigators at a Pre-Olympic Scientific Conference for Sports and Exercise Sciences in Glasgow for her project presentation entitled Influences on Children's Weekday and Weekend Day Physical Activity: The CHANGE! (Children’s Health, Activity and Nutrition: Get Educated!) Project.


Dr Mackintosh, of the Applied Sports Technology Exercise Medicine Research Centre at the College of Engineering, worked on the CHANGE! project whilst a research student at Liverpool's John Moores University. Dr Mackintosh was part of a team of academics there led by Professor Stuart Fairclough. The project was enabled and supported by Helen Roberts and Alexandra Jones from the Fit4Fun team at Wigan Council.

Gareth Stratton, Professor of Paediatric Exercise Sciences at Swansea University and co-investigator on the project said: “I was delighted that Dr Mackintosh, who is a recently appointed member of staff, won top prize along with her collaborators. Dr Mackintosh’s study received significant interest and reflects an area of work that we are keen to pursue at Swansea.”

The CHANGE! study has initially focussed on Wigan Borough has which has a population of around 307,000 and is a ‘Spearhead area’ which means it has above the UK average for deprivation in communities, type two diabetes diagnosis and early deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer. More than 20% population are obese or very obese, while 35.2% of Year 6 boys and 31.2% of Year 6 girls are overweight or obese.

Whilst it is recommended that children should engage in 60 minutes moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, the CHANGE! project researched how much physical activity the children actually did. The project focused on 12 schools – six were ‘intervention’ schools and six acted at a ‘control’ for the project.

The CHANGE! Project was a 20 week curriculum-based healthy eating and physical activity programme, with a further 10 week follow-up.

Teachers received training and a resource package to help them deliver the project while the children and their families were given homework tasks. 

The results showed that during weekdays the ‘intervention’ was successful with the children engaging in on average 8 minutes more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on average than the ‘control’ children. 

However at weekends the ‘intervention’ children engaged in 5.6 minutes less MVPA, per day, which suggested that parents did not persevere with the project to the same extent as the schools and that targeting children alone is not sufficient to bring about significant changes in lifestyles.

The project team also found that the intervention effects were strongest amongst low socio-economic intervention children, who are at the greatest risk of poor health status.

Dr Mackintosh said: “At the end of the project we recommended that there needed to be greater family involvement, especially to promote weekend day physical activity.

“We now hope to extend the project using a longer follow-up period and an in depth evaluation of the intervention delivery and Wigan Council is keen to roll out the programme across the whole borough.”