School based schemes which aim to get teenagers more physically active have had mixed success to date. Often these initiatives only increase activity in the short term, and ask teenagers to take part in a limited choice of sports or activities, such as football or dance during and immediately after the school-day. This approach is very much top-down, with policymakers deciding what young people like and what will fix the problem of teenage inactivity. But as our own research project shows, involving teenagers in plans to boost their physical activity can vastly improve the success of these types of initiatives.
For the ACTIVE Project we worked to improve the activity of 900 teenagers in South Wales. We started by asking them what would make them more active. They told us that accessibility and lack of opportunities to try new activities – ones that were social and informal rather than traditional forms of sport – were barriers to them being active.
We then set up a voucher scheme to enable these teenagers to pay for local activities. The idea was to empower them to be able to access the activities they wanted to do. We also set up peer mentoring to give them social support to be active, and made a support worker available to help the teenagers find out what was available already.
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The Conversation 13th May 2019