School-based Interventions to Reduce Sedentary Behaviour in Children: A Systematic Review

Lynda M. Hegarty, Jacqueline L. Mair, Karen Kirby, Elaine Murtagh, Marie H. Murphy

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Prolonged, uninterrupted periods of sedentary time may be associated with increased risk of Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality even if the minimum recommended levels of daily physical activity are achieved. It is reported that children spend approximately 80% of their day engaged in sedentary behaviours. Since children spend a large portion of their waking time at school, school-based interventions targeting excessive or interrupted periods of sedentary time have been investigated in a number of studies. However, results of the effectiveness of studies to-date have been inconsistent. Aim: To conduct a systematic review to evaluate the effectiveness of school-based interventions designed to reduce sedentary behaviour on objectively measured sedentary time in children. Methods: Five electronic databases were searched to retrieve peer-reviewed studies published in English up to and including August 2015. Studies that reported objectively measured sedentary time before and after a school-based intervention to reduce sedentary time were included in the review. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration method. Results: Our search identified eleven papers reporting eight interventions. Studies focused on the physical environment, the curriculum, individual in-class activities, homework activities or a combination of these strategies. Three studies reported decreases in sedentary time following intervention. Study follow-up periods ranged from immediately post-intervention to 12 months. None of the studies were judged to have a low risk of bias. Conclusions: Multicomponent interventions which also include the use of standing desks may be an effective method for reducing children’s sedentary time in a school-based intervention. However, longer term trials are needed to determine the sustained effectiveness of such interventions on children’s sedentary time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-541
Number of pages22
JournalAIMS Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Aug 2016


  • sedentary behaviour
  • intervention
  • children
  • school
  • standing desks


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