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School-based physical activity intervention for older adolescents: rationale and study protocol for the Burn 2 Learn cluster randomised controlled trial
  1. Angus A Leahy1,2,
  2. Narelle Eather1,2,
  3. Jordan J Smith1,2,
  4. Charles Hillman3,4,
  5. Philip J Morgan1,2,
  6. Michael Nilsson5,
  7. Chris Lonsdale6,
  8. Ronald C Plotnikoff1,2,
  9. Michael Noetel6,7,
  10. Elizabeth Holliday8,
  11. Tatsuya T Shigeta3,
  12. Sarah A Costigan1,2,9,
  13. Frederick R Walker10,
  14. Sarah Young1,2,
  15. Sarah R Valkenborghs1,10,
  16. Prajwal Gyawali10,
  17. Nigel Harris11,
  18. Sarah G Kennedy1,2,
  19. David R Lubans1,2
  1. 1 Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4 Department of Physical Therapy, Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  5. 5 Centre for Rehab Innovations(CRI), School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy and the Priority Research Centre for Stroke and Brain Injury, Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  6. 6 Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Faculty of Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, New South Wales, Australia
  7. 7 School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, New South Wales, Australia
  8. 8 School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  9. 9 School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  10. 10 School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia
  11. 11 Auckland University of Technology, Human Potential Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Professor David R Lubans; david.lubans{at}


Introduction This trial aims to investigate the impact of a school-based physical activity programme, involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT), on the physical, mental and cognitive health of senior school students.

Methods and analysis The Burn 2 Learn (B2L) intervention will be evaluated using a two-arm parallel group cluster randomised controlled trial with allocation occurring at the school level (to treatment or wait-list control). Schools will be recruited in two cohorts from New South Wales, Australia. The trial will aim to recruit ~720 senior school students (aged 16–18 years) from 20 secondary schools (ie, 10 schools per cohort). A range of implementation strategies will be provided to teachers (eg, training, equipment and support) to facilitate the delivery of HIIT sessions during scheduled classes. In phase I and II (3 months each), teachers will facilitate the delivery of at least two HIIT sessions/week during lesson-time. In phase III (6 months), students will be encouraged to complete sessions outside of lesson-time (teachers may continue to facilitate the delivery of B2L sessions during lesson-time). Study outcomes will be assessed at baseline, 6 months (primary end point) and 12 months. Cardiorespiratory fitness (shuttle run test) is the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes include: vigorous physical activity, muscular fitness, cognition and mental health. A subsample of students will (i) provide hair samples to determine their accumulated exposure to stressful events and (ii) undergo multimodal MRI to examine brain structure and function. A process evaluation will be conducted (ie, recruitment, retention, attendance and programme satisfaction).

Ethics and dissemination This study has received approval from the University of Newcastle (H-2016–0424) and the NSW Department of Education (SERAP: 2017116) human research ethics committees.

Trial registration number ACTRN12618000293268; Pre-results.

  • physical fitness
  • adolescents
  • physical activity
  • behaviour change
  • resistance training
  • cognition

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  • Contributors DRL, CH, PJM, RCP, MNil, CL, NE and JJS secured funding for the project. DRL, NE, JJS, PJM, CL, AAL, MNoe, SAC, and NH designed the intervention. CH, MNil, SRV and DRL designed the multimodal MRI substudy. CH, TTS and AAL designed and contributed to the administration of the cognitive assessments. FRW and PG designed the cortisol measurement protocol. EH conducted the power calculation and guided the statistical analysis. SY and SGK are responsible for project management, school recruitment and data collection. All authors contributed intellectually to the study design and research methodology, or will. AAL and DRL were responsible for drafting the manuscript. All authors provided critical review and endorsed the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (APP1120518) and the NSW Department of Education School Sport Unit.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval for this study was obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Newcastle, Australia (H-2016–424) and the NSW Department of Education (SERAP: 2017116).

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

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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