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What works best when implementing a physical activity intervention for teenagers? Reflections from the ACTIVE Project: a qualitative study
  1. Michaela James1,
  2. Danielle Christian2,
  3. Samantha Scott1,
  4. Charlotte Todd1,
  5. Gareth Stratton3,
  6. Joanne Demmler1,
  7. Sarah McCoubrey4,
  8. Julian Halcox1,
  9. Suzanne Audrey5,
  10. Elizabeth A Ellins6,
  11. Elizabeth Irvine1,
  12. Sinead Brophy1
  1. 1 College of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  2. 2 Department of Sport and Physical Activity, Edgehill University, Ormskirk, UK
  3. 3 College of Engineering, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  4. 4 Active Young People Department, City and County of Swansea, Swansea, UK
  5. 5 Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  6. 6 Institute of Life Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  1. Correspondence to Miss Michaela James; m.l.james{at}


Objective This paper explores what aspects of a multicomponent intervention were deemed strengths and weaknesses by teenagers and the local council when promoting physical activity to young people.

Design Qualitative findings at 12 months from a mixed method randomised control trial.

Methods Active Children Through Incentive Vouchers—Evaluation (ACTIVE) gave teenagers £20 of activity enabling vouchers every month for a year. Peer mentors were also trained and a support worker worked with teenagers to improve knowledge of what was available. Semistructured focus groups took place at 12 months to assess strengths and weaknesses of the intervention. Eight focus groups (n=64 participants) took place with teenagers and one additional focus group was dedicated to the local council’s sport development team (n=8 participants). Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.

Results Teenagers used the vouchers on three main activities: trampolining, laser tag or the water park. These appeal to both genders, are social, fun and require no prior skill or training. Choice and financial support for teenagers in deprived areas was considered a strength by teenagers and the local council. Teenagers did not engage with a trained peer mentor but the support worker was considered helpful.

Conclusions The ACTIVE Project’s delivery had both strengths and weakness that could be used to underpin future physical activity promotion. Future interventions should focus on improving access to low cost, fun, unstructured and social activities rather than structured organised exercise/sport. The lessons learnt from this project can help bridge the gap between what is promoted to teenagers and what they actually want from activity provision.

Trial registration number ISRCTN75594310

  • community child health
  • public health
  • qualitative research

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributors Swansea University designed the study and collected, analysed and interpreted the data. The university also wrote this study paper and made the decision to submit. MJ wrote the first draft of the paper and all authors provided critical input and revisions for all further drafts. SB wrote analysis and results section and provided critical input and revisions for all further drafts. MJ, CT, SS, EI, JD and SB undertook data collection and data analysis. DC, CT, SB, GS, JH, SA, SM and EAE designed the study, aided in interpretation of findings and supervision of study quality. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted. All authors would like to thank the staff at the participating schools for their co-operation during the study and the year 9 pupils for their views and opinions as well as participation.

  • Funding This work was supported by the British Heart Foundation (PG/16/16/32057) who peer reviewed the protocol at the time of grant application but had no further involvement other than providing funding (grant number: PG/16/16/32057).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The College of Human and Health Science Ethics Committee granted ACTIVE ethical approval (Reference: 090516).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data are available on reasonable request from the corresponding author ( Additional information regarding the study protocol can be requested. The corresponding author has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, a worldwide licence to the publishers and its licensees in perpetuity, in all forms, formats and media (whether known now or created in the future), to (1) publish, reproduce, distribute, display and store the contribution; (2) translate the contribution into other languages, create adaptations, reprints, include within collections and create summaries, extracts and/or abstracts of the contribution; (3) create any other derivative work(s) based on the contribution; (4) to exploit all subsidiary rights in the contribution; (5) the inclusion of electronic links from the contribution to third party material where-ever it may be located and (6) licence any third party to do any or all of the above.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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