Background: School-based interventions offer the opportunity to increase physical activity, health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and nutritional behaviours, yet methodological limitations hinder current research, particularly among under-represented children from low socio-economic status (SES). The aim was to determine the effect of a 12-week physical activity programme, Sport for LIFE: All Island (SFL:AI), on physical activity levels, HRQOL, and nutritional attitudes and behaviours in children of low SES across the island of Ireland.
Methods: A 2 (groups) x 4 (data collection points) clustered randomised controlled trial was conducted comprising an intervention group who received SFL:AI for 12 weeks, and a waiting-list control condition. In total 740 children (381 boys, 359 girls) aged 8-9 years (mean = 8.7; SD = .50) from 27 schools across four regions of Ireland (Ulster, Leinster, Connacht and Munster) took part. Physical activity was measured by accelerometers, and children completed a validated questionnaire at baseline, mid (i.e. 6-weeks), post-intervention (i.e. 12 weeks) and follow-up (i.e. 3 months post-intervention).
Results: No significant interaction effects for the intervention were found on any of the study outcomes. Main effects were reported for physical well-being, parental relations and autonomy and financial resources, as well as sweetened beverages, environment and intake, and attitude to vegetables. However, these changes were not statistically attributable to the intervention.
Conclusions: It remains unclear if school-based physical activity interventions can improve HRQOL through physical activity with children from low SES. Logistical and methodological considerations are outlined to explore the null effect of the programme, and to provide suggestions for future research and practice.