Intended for healthcare professionals


Are interventions to promote physical activity in children a waste of time?

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 27 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6320
  1. Mark Hamer, principal research associate,
  2. Abigail Fisher, senior research associate
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  1. m.hamer{at}

No, finding an intervention that works is essential

Environment impacts strongly on children's activity


Physically active children are more likely to remain active into adulthood, and maintaining a physically active lifestyle throughout life has considerable health benefits.1 2 3 Current UK guidelines state that all children and adolescents should engage in physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity for at least 60 minutes a day.4 However, recent objective data from the Health Survey for England confirmed that only 33% of boys and 21% of girls currently meet those guidelines,5 and further research has shown a dramatic drop off in activity levels from childhood to adolescence.6 Thus, developing effective interventions to promote physical activity in children is crucial.

In a linked research paper (doi:10.1136/bmj.e5888), Metcalf and colleagues report findings from a meta-analysis of studies that together examined 30 interventions aimed at promoting physical activity in children.7 The results indicate a small to negligible pooled effect on total time spent in physical activity, with disappointing improvements in the time spent in moderate to vigorous intensity activities (about four minutes a day). The current analysis differs from previous systematic reviews on this …

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